Paddy Davitt: Tony Andreu is a victim of circumstance at Norwich City
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Tony Andreu will always hold a special place in Alex Neil's City story. Paddy Davitt assesses his chances of a bigger role on the pitch.
Tony Andreu was Alex Neil’s maiden signing as Norwich City boss. The Frenchman is yet to make a first team start for the Canaries.
Those two statements alone would suggest only a supreme optimist sees the personable 28-year-old edging out any number of higher-profile team mates to earn a regular starting spot at Carrow Road. Andreu came south in Neil’s slipstream from Hamilton Academical with a reputation as a free-scoring, technically-proficient attacking midfielder.
Norwich’s rapid rise under Neil stunted any chance for Andreu to showcase that talent. The stakes were too high and in rivals like Wes Hoolahan or Jonny Howson, and later Graham Dorrans, the Norwich manager had more established options at his disposal.
Andreu was a deadline arrival in January 2015 with City unable to push through a deal for Dorrans. By the time the Scot arrived, on loan ahead of a permanent switch from West Brom, it was clear Andreu would struggle to bridge that divide and make an immediate impact.
Neil spoke of the increased physical demands and the athletic requirements of competing in the Championship during that initial phase compared to the Scottish top flight.
Given Andreu struggled to make any impression in City’s surge to promotion it was no surprise he failed to play one minute of the club’s doomed Premier League bid.
An extended loan stint at Rotherham, where he scored twice in 11 outings for the Millers, was a limited body of work for a player who has remained largely on the periphery. That is the nature of business.
Some signings arrive with the pedigree and the personality to emerge as frontline options. You only have to contrast Andreu’s Norwich experience with that of Timm Klose, who quickly blossomed until injury cruelly intervened.
Andreu may have two years left on his Carrow Road contract but it would hardly come as a surprise if this season brings more loan exposure or a permanent break. Neil has brought in Coventry City starlet James Maddison to push the likes of Hoolahan and Steven Naismith in that creative link role. Maddison is seen as the future, Hoolahan and Naismith the present and the brutal reality is Andreu may be the past.
This is not just about what Neil deems best for the Canaries but what is in the best interests of a player who may in the weeks and months ahead reach the same conclusion as Norwich predecessors such as Elliott Bennett over when is a good time to move on.
Neil clearly values Andreu, given the prominent role he played in the duo’s success at Hamilton, but this is a different landscape and a difficult challenge. Just like the Scot had precious little time for experimentation when he first arrived to trigger that successful play-off push, there is a premium on Norwich hitting the ground running when they kick-off the new campaign back at the same level. Andreu may find himself a victim of circumstance once again.