Norwich City's picture-perfect days are done - now they have to prove their focus
PUBLISHED: 20:36 09 September 2016 | UPDATED: 14:42 12 September 2016
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Among the many and numerous 'changes' that can be pinned on the emergence of football's transfer windows, the loss of one great tradition irks.
There was a time not so long ago when you could grab a shiny copy of Norwich City’s squad photo just before the new season kicked off – one lovingly crafted on the Carrow Road pitch, with the new kit on show too.
Occasionally it would be the only time you would see a player that year, if season-long injury or multi-million-pound bid arrived. My memory tells me Craig Bellamy achieved both feats during his short City career.
In the present day with the comings and goings usually generated across the divisions and the window, such a photo simply isn’t a worthwhile option until deadline day passes and September arrives.
Some clubs have even taken to sorting a second squad picture once the January window closes – although with the same kit, same haircuts, fewer holiday tans and no break in action, the draw to it is not the same.
So when Bellamy’s real boyhood club rocks up at Carrow Road on Saturday, for the first time this season it’s a possibility Alex Neil could sit among his squad and think, ‘We’d better get that picture sorted’.
OK, so maybe that won’t be his first thought – but we can all play the same game, now City’s squad is set in stone that can only be broken come 2017.
Let’s deal with the facts first – then we’ll have a go at the feelings.
City have made 32 senior squad numbers public so far this season – that doesn’t include most pertinently Declan Rudd, who will spend the season at Charlton on loan.
As we all know by now, of last season’s Premier League squad Gary O’Neil, Nathan Redmond and Dieumerci Mbokani are the key figures no longer available to Neil – essentially underlining the quality of the players available to the Canaries boss this season.
And of course, there is the young talent of Alex Pritchard, Sergi Canos, Jacob and Josh Murphy – as well as a new striker in Nelson Oliveira – signed on to, or freed up, for City duty this summer.
So for the next four months, that Canaries squad photo would look as impressive as any in the Championship. As it should. The thing is – and I’m sure you’ve all heard this before – football isn’t played on squad photos.
City’s outgoings two seasons ago were pretty similar in number – but what was different was the incomings, which were not only greater in total but included three strikers.
City’s group has not had the same freshening up compared to 2014, which may yet play out as a hangover from last season if City’s example in Birmingham continues.
Age is worth noting too – given a number of 2014’s arrivals came with experience and pedigree. This time around, those coming in have the pedigree – but it’s potential in exchange for wisdom.
Ultimately just like two years ago, City’s board and management staff have banked on the quality of their Premier League squad delivering promotion in the Championship – and they have that quality.
What needs proving now is they have the attitude and stomach for a fight – and their boss has the skills and wherewithal to manage their performance levels.
If it doesn’t happen, maybe City will have to think about that January photo shoot.
• JUST SAYING…
• It’s all been very quiet at Cardiff in recent seasons. From changing club colours to big-money signings and even loftier ambitions, the parachute payments soon ran out and the Bluebirds seem marooned in the Championship never-world inhabited by Ipswich since 2002.
It doesn’t have to be a morose thought for Norwich City fans that things can turn that flat, that quickly. But it would be beyond ignorant to absorb the warning.
• Tomorrow will be Paul Trollope’s Carrow Road return – a man who had a decent stint as a manager before he helped at Norwich under Chris Hughton’s City coaching set-up.
Given his Bristol Rovers connections, Cardiff’s signing of Rickie Lambert really is of little surprise. He could make his debut this weekend – but hopefully it will be City’s new number nine that makes the biggest impression.
That really would settle a few things down after that second city nightmare.