Paul Lambert’s Norwich City signings are in the minority right now
13:26 16 November 2012
©Focus Images Limited www.focus-images.co.uk +447814 482222
Norwich City fans have become accustomed to successive managers embarking on a thorough overhaul of the playing squad, in some cases more drastically than others.
The three-year period between 2006 and 2009, in which Peter Grant, Glenn Roeder and Bryan Gunn were in charge, brought a bewildering turnover of players, many on permanent deals that turned out to be rather temporary, others as temporary signings who at times seemed to arrive almost by the coachload and to disappear just as rapidly.
Grant signed three goalkeepers in one season because he was unhappy with the two he inherited, and Roeder’s controversial policy earned him the nickname of Loan Arranger, though not all his signings were as wide of the mark as his critics make out – witness the progress of Ryan Bertrand and Kieran Gibbs into the England team.
Only three recruits from that three-year spell – one from each manager – remain on the club’s books in 2012-13, with Simon Lappin, Wes Hoolahan and Grant Holt providing enduring links to Grant, Roeder and Gunn, respectively.
But it is easy to forget that even in Paul Lambert’s phenomenally successful three seasons in charge, Colney had a revolving door and recruitment was very heavy.
In the space of 2½ years, Lambert made 31 signings, 22 of them permanent and nine on loan, and despite his veiled criticism of his anticipated budget for this season, he would doubtless have been able to add considerably to his squad had he decided to stay.
Instead, Chris Hughton has picked up the baton and brought in nine new faces, but as the new manager has gradually eased them into his team – six of his signings played in each of the last two Premier League games – it is what has happened to his immediate predecessor’s recruits, most of whom played a key part in securing top-flight status for another season, that has been instructive, once again demonstrating how rapidly team personnel and individual players’ fortunes can change.
Of the 16 surviving members of City’s playing staff brought in by Lambert, only three were in Hughton’s starting eleven for the matches against Stoke and Reading.
Last Saturday, those three – goalkeeper John Ruddy, midfielder Bradley Johnson and winger Anthony Pilkington – all completed 90 minutes against the Royals.
Russell Martin, who had started every Premier League game under Hughton until he suffered a back problem at Aston Villa, was out injured.
Of the remaining 12 Lambert signings, six were on the bench at the Madejski Stadium, but only Steve Morison and Elliott Bennett were given the briefest of outings in the closing minutes, while Ryan Bennett, Marc Tierney, Jonny Howson and Simeon Jackson sat out the 90 minutes.
Three more players, Leon Barnett, David Fox and Andrew Surman, did not make the squad of 18, and the other three Lambert signings have long since been shipped out in loan deals with James Vaughan at Huddersfield and Daniel Ayala and Elliott Ward at Nottingham Forest.
Midfielder Fox’s omission has been the subject of most debate among supporters who voted him into third place in last season’s player of the season poll.
Despite missing City’s pre-season programme through injury, he signed a new two-year contract in September, which in theory keeps him at Carrow Road until 2014.
Both player and manager declared themselves delighted with the deal, but Fox has not kicked a ball in the Premier League this season and apart from three outings in the Capital One Cup, the closest he has come to reappearing in the top flight was a place on the bench for the home game against West Ham United, when he was an unused substitute.
Javier Garrido’s arrival means Tierney has not been seen in Premier League action since the 5-0 thrashing at Fulham on the opening day. Ryan Bennett, another casualty of the Craven Cottage debacle, has not been in the starting eleven for a league match since, and the last of Surman’s four league appearances this season was the 5-2 drubbing at home to Liverpool.
Morison, oddly, has appeared in all 11 of City’s Premier League matches but started only two of them, while Howson’s last two league appearances were the heavy defeats at the hands of Liverpool and Chelsea.
Most of the dispossessed did reappear in the starting eleven for the Capital One Cup tie against Tottenham, and as fans snap up their tickets for the eagerly-awaited quarter-final against Aston Villa, it may just be that game – three days after the trip to Swansea – that will provide most of them with their next opportunity to impress the boss, whether it’s the one in the home or away dug-out.