Changes and rests can give Norwich City their Premier League second wind
07:30 07 February 2014
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Surviving in the Premier League – it’s not just about football clubs fretting over losing more than half their income and prestige overnight. It’s also about the players who arrive in England hoping to make a name for themselves.
• If anyone wants to doubt the importance of Andy Carroll to West Ham, then just look at the ridiculous current lengths they’re going to in trying to make him available for their next three games. Bullying the FA into accepting their appeal against his red card at the weekend with the threat of High Court action? Come on. Chico Flores’ reaction was ridiculous – it was also a violent swing of the arm in frustration from Carroll. Deal with it. At least we now know the Hammers have no faith in Carlton Cole, which may well be handy come Tuesday night.
• I noted my use of the term ‘in-form’ to describe Sebastien Bassong was derided by some City fans – which is understandable, given his start to the season was not the easiest. Yet I’d definitely argue he is getting back to the form he had before Christmas last season – and before he started feeling his knee, with that subsequent operation. Hopefully he keeps this going – and the present perception of last term’s player of the season will change.
The sight of Alex Tettey back in action from the start in Cardiff was a genuine positive, from the most frustrating of Canaries occasions. His absence over the opening half of the season has certainly restricted Norwich’s progress – much like it did last term, when the Norwegian midfielder went off the boil after Christmas.
It was early this campaign that Tettey opened up about what had happened in the previous season, how the demands curtailed his involvement and form – with the Canaries’ own form tumbling in similar fashion before those late flurries came to the rescue.
And it’s a lesson worth bearing in mind this season as Norwich’s summer recruits continue their efforts to become household names with English football supporters.
Probably a case in point is Leroy Fer, who dropped to the bench in Cardiff on Saturday.
Impressively, it was the first time the 24-year-old midfielder had not started a Premier League game for City since the opening game at home to Everton – one the Dutchman was ineligible for as he served a residual suspension from his time at FC Twente.
Now, you will find no doubts here about Leroy’s physique, attitude or ability with the ball. He has everything he needs to become that household name I’m talking about.
But in recent weeks, it’s fair to say the reliance on him was starting to tell. No winter break for the first time in his career and the relentless mental pressure – more than physical effort – of the Premier League, plus a host of midfield injuries for Chris Hughton to deal with… A break from starting duties will hopefully do Fer good.
It certainly seemed to, given his impact when coming on for the final 15 minutes of Alamo-esque football in Cardiff.
And while it was Tettey who came in for his midfield comrade, he can appreciate what it’s like dealing with your first Premier League term.
“It’s tough to come into the Premier League and that’s what I noticed when I came in last season,” said Tettey.
“I had that second period after Christmas in my first season and my body, everything, it suddenly went down. And that happens when you’re new to this division.
“It’s up to the gaffer to see whether any player has the energy to play or hasn’t. But I think when Leroy came on (against Cardiff) he did really well.
“He’s a very good player, so I think we will need him – we will just have to feed him a lot of food and energy, and get him everything he needs so he can be there! But it is tough when you are new to this playing a lot of games. You feel it.
“So it’s good that I’m back, hopefully Jonny Howson can come back as well soon and the gaffer will have options to choose from.”
It’s not really about competition – although that’s there too. But as Alex says, options. It’s something Chris Hughton has been all too short of too often this season – and it could now be key to giving everyone a second wind.