The phoney war is over and hostilities will begin at 16.00hrs today as City visit Molineux to take on a confident Wolves side.
Norwich have been on something of a roller coaster ride since being relegated to League One in 2009. We all remember the farce of the 1-7 drubbing at the hands of Paul Lambert’s Colchester United and two fat blokes throwing their season tickets at Gunny on our first day in League One.
What happened from that point on was nothing short of amazing as City hired Lambert and went on an incredible run of success that led to two back to back promotions and a three year stay in the Premier League.
But that is all in the past and we are now back in English football’s second flight. What must not happen is what happened after relegation in 2005 – the parachute payments were poorly spent and slowly drifted away as the club performed worse each year until eventual relegation in 2009.
There are plenty of positives to look at this time around though. For a start, we have a much stronger squad than that which started the season in 2005. We have managed to keep hold of the majority of the players and as Neil Adams has mentioned, we have a good core.
The only losses thus far are Robert Snodgrass to Hull for a stellar fee and RvW to Saint Etienne on a very good loan. They will pay his wages in full with a view to buying him next season. I’m sure that we’d rather have Snoddy with us but much as I wanted him to be a success, I’m not sure Ricky was going to cut the mustard, of course now, We’ll never know.
Adams has brought in two strikers who know this league in Lafferty and Grabban. I like what I’ve seen of Grabban who looks to have a good all round game. He has pace, strength, height and knows where the goal is. Lafferty is a battering ram and is shaping up to be a Grant Holt type player – good.
There are of course, three weeks to go until we know exactly what squad we will start the season with. Leroy Fer is back after the World Cup but I’ll be surprised if he stays. On the plus side, QPR seem to have turned to Jordnan Mutch after reportedly balking at the fee City suggested for Fer. Southampton now seem to be the biggest threat to us keeping him. With a Dutch legend in charge, pots of cash and a team to build, The Saints seem his most likely destination.
Martin Olsson is another that has been a wanted man this summer but after turning down several bids and Southampton and West Ham recruiting other left backs now, we might just keep the lad.
Of course, if we keep them both we will have a terrific squad. I looked at the XI that Fulham put out against Ipswich yesterday and recognised only three of the names from the Premier League. We will not have that problem.
Our ‘problem’ if you want to call it that will be whether or not our new coach can mould the players into a winning team again.
Neil Adams is untried and untested as a manager. He has the qualifications but doesn’t have the experience, he will be gaining that on the job, so to speak.
Norwich are a team that won only eight games last season and by the end the confidence had gone completely. Having kept his best players and added to that unit, Adams’ biggest task will have been to foster team spirit as well as find a way for that group of players to regularly win again.
By contrast, our first opponents, Wolves will have no such confidence issues. They won thirty one games last season and have a young vibrant team that will have a swagger about them and a point to prove.
Remember Norwich when we were in that position?
It will be tough, no doubt but what I hope for is that the fan base will give Adams the chance he deserves. There was an under current of pessimism after his appointment and that is still there, it showed itself on the forums after Joe Royle left his short tenancy of the ‘Football Consultant’ role.
The Adams situation is not like that of Bryan Gunn. Both are respected ex-players and fondly thought of by the fans. Adams has all the necessary qualifications and is much better qualified than gunny was at this point.
The imperative thing though, is that he gets off to a fast start. That doesn’t necessarily mean he has to win at Wolves, although it would be nice, but it does mean that we need to see progress and we need to see goals.
Adams knows that and has spoken about it many times over the last couple of months. I expect his side to play with energy and attacking intent, something that Chris Hughton suppressed at almost every opportunity. ‘Cautious Chris’ played his football like George Graham did at Arsenal, happy with a one nil win but without an Ian Wright up front or a Tony Adams at the back – it was never going to work.
I spoke earlier about Neil Adams having to build the necessary team spirit and events of the last few days suggest that is happening. Contract extensions for Ryan Bennett and in particular Wes Hoolahan are remarkable pieces of business for two bit part players under Hughton.
The turn around in the Hoolahan situation in particular is extraordinary and shows that Adams is a man manager, as all the best football bosses are. We all watch a lot of football and we all know that Wes can be a massive player in this league – I can only applaud Neil for that.
But now, the talking is nearly over. It’s game day and City have to show they mean business. As I said, winning the Wolves game isn’t imperative but for Adams’ sake I hope we don’t lose it. If we lose it badly then I fear the under current of discontent will raise it’s head.
But as you will know, if you follow my writing. I am an optimist, we aren’t going to lose!
Come on you yellows, On the ball City!