Six things I want to see done at Norwich City over the summer break
PUBLISHED: 20:00 10 May 2017
©Focus Images Limited www.focus-images.co.uk +447814 482222
It feels strange to say the season is over.
Whether it’s the thick and fast nature of the Championship fixture list or the fact that for the first time in a few years our season has been done and dusted so early in May, it just doesn’t feel right.
Other than John Ruddy’s emotional farewell and the appearance of the Barry Butler Memorial Trophy, to me, nothing felt finite about Sunday. It just doesn’t feel like the season’s end.
I think, however, I’ve pinpointed why – because for a number of weeks all the talk has been about the future – what’s coming next.
With Stuart Webber’s arrival on the scene, a new structure in place and a new head coach on the way, who can be blamed for looking further forward than usual?
So, with this being the season’s end, rather than reflecting on a fairly disappointing campaign, I’m going to too look forward.
There is no mistaking, it is a crucial summer for the Canaries, with huge significance for the club’s immediate, and long term futures. Whether we make it back to the Promised Land, or face the kind of permanent mediocrity usually reserved for the Blue side of the Norfolk-Suffolk border depends on it.
With this in mind here are six things I want to see factored into Stuart Webber’s summer plans. • Build around Pritch
We’ve seen the absolute best of Alex Pritchard these past few weeks. Since Alex Neil’s departure the ex-Spurs man has been unplayable – ironic as this is usually the time of year Spurs get their most Spursy.
As Wes Hoolahan said, Pritchard has really come into his own in that number 10 role, and he needs to be the focal point of any rebuild over the summer.
It’s also key to make him know that he is seen this way and made to feel valued.
• Reward Alan Irvine
Since taking on the reins Alan Irvine has done a superb job in my mind. He seems to have had a real calming influence about the place.
His win-loss ratio wasn’t to be scoffed at their, five wins out of 10 gives him a higher ratio than Paul Lambert – although admittedly in 132 fewer games.
While I don’t think this is enough to give him the head coach role, I’m keen to see him rewarded with a key backroom role – he’s proven himself a useful asset.
• Entertain European options
I’m talking solely about the head coach hunt now, and it is due to the new structure I am thinking this way. The director/head coach model is a very European way of thinking, so I feel the new head coach should already be accustomed to this.
David Wagner’s name is inevitably one that will be bandied about, and I think he fits the bill.
• Avoid Uwe Rosler
Wagner’s countryman Uwe Rosler is another man that has been mentioned. Up until the weekend I was unsure what to think - however, what I saw then made me slightly worried.
I caught the final 10 minutes of Fleetwood’s play-off semi-final with Bradford, and while I’m not one to judge a man on a mere 10 minutes, it was not promising.
In by far the most important 10 minutes of the club’s 20-year history, I saw nothing.
Desperate for a goal, they spent practically the whole time in their own half. This doesn’t bode well.
• Keep the master around
While I have already mentioned building a team around Alex Pritchard, I don’t see this as the end for Wes Hoolahan.
Wes still has so much to give and crucially, so much to teach.
His influence on the pitch can’t be understated, and I still want to see him contribute, however, he can have an even bigger influence off of it.
There’s been no talk so far about letting him move on, but stranger things have happened – however, it should not.
The more chances to play the likes of Pritchard and James Maddison have to play with Wes, the better they will be in years to come.
• Keep Mitchell Dijks
This may be a big ask, and Stuart Webber has already said it will require ‘financial creativity’, but I think keeping the Dutchman is a must. He’s shown he can be another big asset for the club - if he wants to come.
•Sort that defence out
Short of the head coach appointment, this is without a doubt the most important summer task, as it is clearly what has cost us promotion. You only have to look at the fact that no teams outscored us to realise this.
Recruiting two, if not three centre-backs is a must. Timm Klose is brilliant and credit to him for staying, but the Championship isn’t his bag.
Russell Martin, for all his dedication, still doesn’t look a centre back to me. This can’t be our first choice pairing next term.
Wes the right choice for player of season award
I was delighted to see Wes pick up the player of the season award - but not for the reason you may expect.
I’m not one for the sentimental vote and neither did I vote for Carlo Nash the other year when the season truly was diabolical.
This season was disappointing, sure, but it wasn’t demanding of a sentimental or protest vote.
The reason I was delighted Wes picked up the award, was simply the fact that he was, in my mind, the best player.
In the early stages of the season, Jacob Murphy looked to be running away with it, but I felt he somewhat faded.
Similarly, in the latter stages, Alex Pritchard was easily City’s best player.
However, in terms of being a consistent performer, it was Wes for me. Sometimes, it’s easier to see a player’s impact when they are not on the field than when they are.
You only have to see how little creativity City tended to have without Wes on the pitch to see how big a player he has been. For me, he deserved it.
Unlikely toast to a record-breaking year
In a season that ultimately proved disappointing, who would have thought a record would be broken? This is exactly what happened at Carrow Road this term - believe it or not.
Josh Murphy’s late goal on Sunday – City’s third of the game – made sure that this season’s Carrow Road haul was City’s biggest at home in the second tier in history.
Wes Hoolahan’s strike with the final kick of the game made it 55 home league goals, meaning City came just one goal shy of equalling the all-time record of 56, scored in the old Division Three South in 1952-3 and 1955-56.
The previous record was set in 1962-63, when City helped themselves to 53 home goals.
Funnily enough, that season also ended without promotion – City finished even lower: 13th.
Incidentally, Wes’s strike didn’t put smiles on everyone’s face that day – it denied one of my colleagues (who will remain unnamed) his first correct score prediction of the season!