Big Seb Bassong's return could be Norwich City's best bit of business in the transfer window
PUBLISHED: 22:37 04 February 2015 | UPDATED: 22:37 04 February 2015
©Focus Images Limited www.focus-images.co.uk +447814 482222
As the final whistle blew at St Andrews on Saturday and Transfer Deadline Eve dawned not much more than tumbleweed had blown in since the window opened for Norwich City.
Yet, like an anti-social teenager locked in his bedroom for hours on end playing Football Manager, Alex Neil may have happened upon a couple of virtual new signings in that forgettable goalless draw against Birmingham.
The big lad at the back alongside Russell Martin looked ever so familiar, as did the ever willing left midfielder. Sebastien Bassong and Elliott Bennett hadn’t so much been brought in from the cold as sent out into it on a freezing day in the Midlands and both played their part in helping the Canaries grind out a point which may or may not turn out to be a useful one when it comes to the final countdown.
The case of Bassong is a curious one. It was almost nine months and two managers ago that he last featured for Norwich City’s first team and yet it was like he had never been away. Complete with his trademark once-per-half charge up the field to spend a few seconds as centre forward, the Cameroon international showed glimpses to suggest he could recapture the sort of form that saw him deservedly named player of the year in a side that finished 11th in the Premier League just two seasons ago.
His fortunes have nose-dived since, rather in keeping with Norwich City’s.
The exact reasons for Bassong’s rapid fall from grace under Neil Adams, inset, have never been fully explained but cards haven’t been kept close enough to chests to deduce that it can’t purely have been down to the centre back struggling to reproduce his award-winning form for a second season.
While Norwich City have fallen from the respectability of mid-table in the Premier League to the desperation of hanging on to the coat-tails of the Championship play-off contenders, Bassong has gone from lifting the Barry Butler Trophy at Carrow Road to having to prove himself again by playing at the same ground for the Canaries’ Under-21s.
His performance against Borussia Mönchengladbach’s youngsters last Tuesday evening suggested that any attitude issues have been addressed and that Alex Neil’s preferred blend of coffee may be the one Bassong has woken up to. Well, that and perhaps the shock that nothing more than a few months on loan at Watford materialised during his spell on the Norwich naughty step.
The crowd of around 4,000 for that Under 21 Premier League International Cup match against the Germans was impressive for a game of that level but they rather rattled around inside a stadium more used to 26,000 sell-outs.
Bassong’s eagerness to holler instructions to his junior team-mates really stood out. It was often his booming voice which was echoing back off the empty Barclay Stand seats.
Giving Bassong the opportunity to at least stake a claim for a recall was a no-brainer for Alex Neil.
Central defence has been the biggest issue for Norwich City this season, illustrated by the fact that Saturday saw the ninth different partnership to have started in that position for the club since the start of the campaign. Bassong and Russell Martin helped give City a more solid look than in almost any other game this season.
But then Sebastien Bassong’s Norwich City career was born out of a defensive crisis. He was signed from Tottenham just three days after Chris Hughton’s canary career had started with a 5-0 humbling at Fulham. Two-and-a-half years later, Alex Neil has turned to him in his own time of defensive need.
If Neil can continue to get something like the best out of the enigmatic ex-captain then it may just prove to be a brilliant bit of January business, even if it doesn’t involve medicals, agents or a man shouting on Sky Sports at 11pm.
Complaining about the cold has never been my style
I have chosen a career path which involves sitting outside for 90 minutes in windswept football stadiums in Great Britain in the winter so to expect any sympathy when it gets a bit chilly would be churlish.
That said there is no better ice breaker, if you’ll pardon the pun, in a press room at a match than by comparing notes about how many layers you’ve got on. The only thing more refreshing than the icy winds at Birmingham on Saturday was the attitude of the lady on the reception desk.
In the most deadpan of Midlands accents she completely straight-batted my lazy attempt at starting a conversation by going route one with the weather. I was wrong-footed by her comeback of: “I love the cold, it’s the hot I can’t stand. I’d much rather hibernate all summer.”
I was completely ill prepared to deal with the tale of woe she had about having a house that gets so warm round the front in the summer she can only sit in the kitchen. My carefully prepared banter about the thermals I was wearing was rendered completely useless.
St Andrews is a ground that likes to do things different. It has three modern looking stands but we were housed in the one that resembles the old South Stand at Carrow Road 12 years ago.
The sign above our commentary position warning not to disturb the asbestos roof helped to occupy the mind during the drab 0-0 draw. It also stopped any thoughts about the cold, not that you will ever catch me complaining about that.