Ian Clarke: Beauty and the beast can work for the Canaries
PUBLISHED: 11:32 11 September 2020 | UPDATED: 11:32 11 September 2020
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I’m trying to recall a closed season when the mood of Norwich City fans has changed so much.
Think back to that moment ex-Canary Nathan Redmond completed the miserable 3-0 rout against Southampton at a virtually empty Carrow Road at the beginning of Project Restart.
From then until Riyad Mahrez scored Manchester City’s fifth to end the Premier League journey on the lowest of low points, there was pretty much unrelenting misery for City fans.
One of the driest periods in the club’s history had seen a depressing relegation sealed.
Fans feared the crown jewels of youngsters would be picked off by the circling top-flight predators and the chances of bouncing straight back were on a par with Paul Lambert being crowned League One manager of the year.
But all of a sudden things are so different.
Supporters are chirpy again. Actually, very chirpy.
The gloom has turned to genuine optimism for a decent stab at making an immediate return to the top flight.
We have to be realistic that we may still lose others of the £20m-rated stars in addition to Jamal Lewis before the transfer window slams shut.
However, surely no one could have foreseen the volume, variety and quality of new faces parading through the front door at NR1.
Alex Tettey has already said he believes the squad is stronger than last year and certainly the Canaries followers I’ve been talking to share that view.
One thing was certain – that masses of money wasn’t going to be thrown at Operation Return.
The clear ethos from the top has been followed and the signings appear shrewd, calculated and generally consistent with what our club is all about.
The dealings look good and what I feel is crucial for City to get in the mix at the top is a blend of beauty and the beast.
We know so well the beautiful football Daniel Farke’s men are capable of.
There was a reason that for a long period before lockdown Norwich were dubbed in many quarters “the best bottom of the table side ever”.
Kieran Dowell certainly looks a great addition who will enhance the creative force.
My colleague Paddy Davitt described his performance in the Germany tour finale - which included a delicious finish and delightful assist – as a “tantalising glimpse” of what he can bring.
Add him to the likes of Emi Buendia and Todd Cantwell and it’s clear to see that the ability to create beauty is not in doubt.
It’s the beastliness we need to see more of.
I shudder when I recall the countless occasions – especially in the latter stages of the campaign – when City were out-muscled and out-fought all across the pitch.
In brute strength terms we were simply not good enough.
The capture of Jordan Hugill looks to be a real sign of intent to address that.
The self-styled “battering ram” is already showing that he could become a cult hero in the mould of all those talismanic figures we have known and loved down the years.
His bold words, big physique and early performances are whetting the appetite.
Przemysław Płacheta and Oliver Skipp look beasts of a different kind.
The Pole’s pace could light up the Championship and fill defenders with dread, while the loanee – tipped to be a future Spurs captain – offers some real steel in the engine room.
Fans have been crying out for a beast in the centre of the defence to help cure the malaise which has led to so many goals being leaked in the past couple of seasons.
City just haven’t been able to field a settled pairing, mainly due to injuries.
Ben Gibson looks to be the missing piece of the jigsaw.
Things haven’t worked out for him at Burnley, but if Farke can revive his potential, he could be a key man..
Promotion is going to be far from easy for City, but we certainly look in fine fettle.
And if the bounceback dream comes true, the blend of beauty and the beast will be even more crucial to stay there.