Bryan Gunn backs Norwich City to maintain flying Premier League form
Canaries legend Bryan Gunn believes Norwich City can break into the higher reaches of the Premier League this season – if the players believe it too.
Chris Hughton’s charges made it 10 league games unbeaten with victory over Wigan on Saturday, with the Canaries settled in eighth position as the top-flight approaches the halfway mark.
The superb string of results, which topped City’s previous Premier League best enjoyed during Gunn’s playing days in 1993, is bettered only by Barcelona across Europe’s top five divisions.
And while all good things must come to an end eventually, Norwich fans will be hoping not only that it isn’t as early as Saturday’s trip to faltering West Bromwich Albion – but also that Gunn’s optimism over the rest of City’s season proves well founded.
“If they keep the same form, stay away from injuries and their confidence is still there, then they can certainly sustain what they are doing and if they have bit more luck and a bit more belief, and the home form stays – and I know the crowd will be right behind them at Carrow Road – they can sneak into the top six, top eight at the end of the season,” said Gunn.
“And that would be great credit to the coaching team that Chris Hughton has got there, as well the directors who have invested money in the squad.
“And the fact they will have that big cheque next season with the added TV revenue would set Norwich City up for years to come, so I’m delighted they are in this run of form.”
While Gunn’s time as City manager brought little cheer, the former goalkeeper’s recruitment of Grant Holt remains a key piece of business on which plenty of success has since been built. But there is one element Gunn sees as City’s big strength.
“It’s the team spirit they’ve got – when they score goals they celebrate together, when they defend they defend in tackles and blocked shots, and in that penalty area you will see lots of bodies flying about; they congratulate each other on those occasions as well and the team spirit looks very solid there at the moment,” added the Scot.
“There are players Paul Lambert had. Chris Hughton came in and made some of his own signings, and you’ve got the likes of Grant and Wes Hoolahan who have been there for a few years now, and been there through all the positive results that have happened in the last three seasons.
“So it has blended in very nicely for Chris, confidence is high and when you’ve got that confidence and team spirit going, you feel like you can go out on the pitch every week and get a result.”
It was a nasty injury to Gunn that helped bring a devastating slump in form and ultimately top-flight relegation for City in 1995.
And while John Ruddy could be back from thigh surgery in time for the final dozen matches of the season, Gunn feels Hughton’s recruitment of back-up Mark Bunn was an ideal move.
“We have all been number twos in our career and it’s one of the most frustrating positions,” said Gunn, speaking on the Premier League Podcast.
“Even outfield players get more opportunities of playing, but when you are a number two goalkeeper you don’t tend to get much first-team action apart from League Cup games or things like that these days.
“Chris Hughton at the start said he needed a bit more experience in his goalkeeper ranks. He’s got young Declan Rudd and Jed Steer as well, but he’s been proved right bringing Mark in.
“The injury to John Ruddy came as a great shock because he had been playing really well and got himself into the England squad. So to have someone come in and slot into the team, and not look out of sorts, is great credit to the scouting they have been doing behind the scenes to bring these players in at the beginning of the season.
“Mark has got an opportunity now to make the position his own. John will be back in a couple of months but certainly if Mark continues to play well, that gives Chris Hughton a nice headache when it comes round to choosing between the two goalkeepers.”