Norwich City Report Card: Undervalued Hubby may need to seek a bit of faith
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Continuing our end of season report cards on Daniel Farke's Norwich City squad, MICHAEL BAILEY wonders about the future for a rather undervalued James Husband.
Scan back 12 months and Norwich City were devoid of any options in one area of the pitch, to the point it had almost become a joke.
It was as if left-back had been left off the Canaries’ planning: the January sales of Martin Olsson and Robbie Brady came before contemplating an expensive deal for Mitchell Dijks, who this summer will swap Dutch giants Ajax for Serie A side Bologna.
Even before a ball was kicked in pre-season, City had in mind who would break through as their new frontline option – only for a pre-season knee injury to hamper those hopes for several months. More on Jamal Lewis later.
By that point, the Canaries had already recruited 24-year-old James Husband from Middlesbrough for what was in reality, a modest initial outlay of little more than £500,000.
Fulham fans would say how highly they regarded him after almost a year on loan at the London club, while the jury was a little more out at Boro – especially after a 2016-17 Premier League season torn apart by injury and form.
That absence of games in the run-up to Husband’s City switch would be referred to more than once by Daniel Farke, as the defender’s rustiness made life exposed to the full weight of a Championship schedule tough.
Good, solid performances and attacking support were let down by short spells of nodding off – but in truth, that was often all that prevented Husband from being deemed more of a success.
From a superb 1-0 win at his former North East home to victory at Reading and a dogged Carabao Cup evening at Premier League Arsenal, Husband played his part in some of the season’s genuine highlights.
Likewise – like everyone – there were a few stinkers too.
The year ended with a horrible goalless draw at Burton that was a crime against football. And in that first half, the sight of Wes Hoolahan balling at the face of Husband as his defensive team-mate was booked for diving in the Brewers’ box – frittering away arguably City’s best chance of breaking the deadlock – seemed to indicate forthcoming faith might be in short supply.
Husband made just three more appearances after that day at the Pirelli: 90 minutes in March as City drew 1-1 at an eventually relegated Barnsley, before 75 minutes of the Canaries’ QPR thrashing and a half-time hooking – rather harshly – at Sunderland.
Some of those events suggested Farke’s own faith in Husband was also waning.
Indeed it’s perhaps unfair to expect a player to deliver his best performances when being plucked straight out from the cold, especially if there is a niggle in the back of their mind that the boss might not fancy them.
Added to that backdrop should be the emergence of academy product and now Northern Ireland international Jamal Lewis.
Making his City debut at the tender age of 19 following his summer knee injury, Lewis became a mainstay – as may well have been earmarked back in July.
Lewis has brought with him huge potential and pride – but several indications of the work he still needs to put in to become close to the finished article.
It’s amazing how being four years younger can buy someone so much more leeway.
It seems likely Husband will find a similar battle awaiting him next season, trying to usurp a highly regarded young footballer and in turn continue to rebuild his own career – and still at a young age himself – with much more regular football.
Whether that is enough to keep Husband pushing and believing next season remains to be seen.
But there is still more than enough in the tank for the left-back to make his City spell successful – providing his head coach shares the same view.
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