Ian Clarke: City must keep the key gang of three together

Teemu Pukki seals Norwich City's 2-0 Premier League win over Burnley

Teemu Pukki seals Norwich City's 2-0 Premier League win over Burnley - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

"That was more like it" - "Where have those sort of performances been?"  - "It's lovely to enjoy a game at Carrow Road."

I sense plenty of us heard those sorts of phrases - and probably all said at least one of them - in the immediate aftermath of Sunday's win over Burnley.

For me it wasn't so much that the three points mean Dean Smith's men are likely to complete the great escape to stay at English football's top table.

Of course it's possible, and let's face it, a win at Old Trafford this weekend really will get the blood pumping.

This relentlessly over-optimistic Canaries' fan thinks it's too late and the tussles with Sean Dyche's bruisers will be among the big-hitter contests in the second tier next term.

The two goals, the clean sheet, the energy, the fight, the cohesion, the link-up between defence, midfield and attack plus seeing smiles on faces in NR1 was more crucial for the longer term than the immediate benefit for the seemingly impossible survival fight.

Being poor across the park for too long this season will, I still fear, mean another trip back through the relegation trap door.

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What is so important now is that the campaign doesn't die out with tepid submission. The fans have to be hopeful and excited.

We have to see a clear vision for the future.

In the remaining games, there has to be the same desire and intent as we saw on Sunday.

The summer ahead will be massive as Smith and Stuart Webber shake up the squad to make it fit for purpose to bounce back - and crucially find that missing ability to compete effectively in the Premier League.

New faces will have to come in. Some of the current squad has to go.

But - and Sunday reinforced it to me - that three of the current crop have to be secured to be a pivotal part of the bounce back.


Grant Hanley of Norwich and Tim Krul of Norwich at the end of the Premier League match at the Americ

Tim Krul and Grant Hanley are two massively influential players for Norwich. - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Teemu Pukki, Grant Hanley, Tim Krul.

In a team which finally looked good on Sunday, they all shone and their varied and endearing qualities should put them at the heart of Smith's plans.

In an era where so much emphasis is put on splashing out lots of cash, let's remember the trio cost City a combined total of about £6m.

As speculation has grown about comings and goings, there has been talk about all three possibly being lured away to get top-flight football, increase their international prospects or top up their pay packets.

We need them - and I really feel Norwich is the best place for all three of them, who clearly love our club.


Norwich City striker Teemu Pukki take the congratulations from Kenny McLean after a 2-0 Premier League win over Burnley

Norwich City striker Teemu Pukki take the congratulations from Kenny McLean after sealing a 2-0 Premier League win over Burnley - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Who had any doubt that Pukki would find the net after that sublime ball through from Mathias Normann?

It was the GOAT's 75th goal in150 games. Amazing.

The Finn leapfrogged Mark Robins as City's third highest Premier League scorer behind Chris Sutton and Grant Holt.

One staggering statistic is that only Mo Salah (83), Ivan Toney (83) and Aleksander Mitrovic (78) have scored more English league goals than Pukki since the start of 2018/19.

Feed him and he'll score - and there's plenty more in that tank to come.

I'm encouraged at the indication that his contract extension will be triggered and let's get that nailed down quickly.

A scrap with Burnley is the sort of game Hanley dreams of.

He and Ben GIbson were in their element with all those aerial battles and one-to-one tussles.

The giant Scot is currently my choice for player of the season - not the most obvious pick when the defence has been so porous.

I listened to a fascinating podcast on Pink Un+ by my colleagues Paddy Davitt, Connor Southwell and Adam Harvey which centred on Hanley and why he is so important to us - and why he may be attractive to some other clubs.


Adam Idah, right, celebrates his goal with Grant Hanley

Norwich City must fight to keep Grant Hanley

We need his heart, his leadership and his spirit.

And then there's Krul.

In my 45 years of watching City, I have been blessed with seeing so many great keepers - Kevin Keelan, Chris Woods, Bryan Gunn, Robert Green...I could go on.

The Dutchman is a superb shot stopper - what a save at the end on Sunday to ensure the clean sheet.


Tim Krul of Norwich at the end of the Premier League match at the American Express Community Stadium

Tim Krul - one of Norwich City's best ever free signings. - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

His influence on the team and his leadership are so key.

Krul also has that fantastic naughtiness about him. He obviously got in Neal Maupay's head before he missed the penalty at Brighton.

And the way Krul used up vital seconds against Burnley while just about preventing the ref from booking him, was key in taking the momentum away  from Burnley.

There's been less chat about Krul possibly leaving but it remains possible as he is so good. 

They are the gang of three I really love, so over to you Messrs Webber and Smith.

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A win at last for Andy!

The victory over Burnley was sweet in lots of ways - especially as it was finally three points my really good mate Andy Dunnett could cherish this season.

I've had so many great times following the Canaries with Andy, who now lives down in Essex.

He still makes a huge effort to see as many games as he can and before Sunday he had seen four defeats and three goalless draws this season.

Hardly a great return for such an effort!

"It will be eighth time lucky," he confidently said in a text before the match. 

And the hug after the match outside Yellows following the long-awaited victory was extra sweet.

Andy is also a big fan of our Dutch stopper and I have to mention the headline suggestion he sent me after his heroics at Brighton at the start of the month - April Kruls Day!

I think Andy is after my job!

What do we know?!

We all think we're experts don't we?

If you allowed the 20,000 Norwich season ticket holders the chance to pick a team you'd get 20,001 line-ups and formations.

As we always do on the way to a game, we selected the XI we thought Smith should start with and how they should be organised.

Two players who we talked about in some depth before the match - and without a huge amount of positivity I have to confess - were Pierre Lees-Melou and Kenny McLean.

With PLM, our combined thought was what he really brought to the team and how he fitted in.

In terms of the Mayor, the general consensus was he'd been unable produce what we know he's capable of too often this year.

So as we made our way back down the A47 after the game we were delighted to have been proved wrong after both gave such excellent performances.

Well done boys - now do it at Old Trafford.