Matthew Howman: It's character that counts in Norwich City recruitment, not the stats

PUBLISHED: 07:00 27 March 2018 | UPDATED: 09:55 27 March 2018

City players celebrate Oli Johnson's 90th-minute winner against Southend in February, 2010 - typical of a Paul Lambert side. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

City players celebrate Oli Johnson's 90th-minute winner against Southend in February, 2010 - typical of a Paul Lambert side. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2010

Summer transfer window activity should be decided by characteristics, not statistics.

Oli Johnson celebrates after his last-minute goal earned a 2-1 win over Southend in February 2010 for Paul Lambert's side. Picture: ANTONY KELLYOli Johnson celebrates after his last-minute goal earned a 2-1 win over Southend in February 2010 for Paul Lambert's side. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

The clocks have gone forward and the weather is ever-so-slowly beginning to warm, which means we aren’t too far off the end of the season, the World Cup and an all-important transfer window for Norwich City.

We are almost certainly going to be staying put in the Championship next seasons, so preparations should already be well underway to plan who stays and who goes in the summer.

We have, like most football clubs, turned over a lot of playing staff in the last few years with some excellent signings made amongst some very bad ones, and some which just simply didn’t work out. Some of our best haven’t been mega money signings, they have been players with the right characteristics to fit within our football club.

Looking at the more expensive transfers over the last few seasons, Ricky van Wolfswinkel, Gary Hooper, Leroy Fer, Steven Naismith, Alex Pritchard, Yanic Wildschut – it’s hard to make a case that any of those players worked out the way Norwich intended. Pritchard may have been the only exception had it not been for long-term injuries and then financial circumstance.

Then to look at the mid-range and less expensive key signings – Robert Snodgrass, Alex Tettey, Nathan Redmond, Cameron Jerome, James Maddison, they weren’t “marquee” signings, but all of the aforementioned players have qualities and characteristics that add value to a team, two of which were chased by Premier League clubs with Maddison almost certain to follow suit in the near future.

In each and every column I write, I’ve always aimed to include a useful statistic on a player or the team’s recent form, but after watching and absorbing football for a number of seasons I’m beginning to conclude that for a team like Norwich it’s about the characteristics of a player, not the statistics that make them successful.

As fans we have always said we want to see effort, commitment and a desire to win as a bare minimum from a player and at a mid-table club that comes in many forms. It’s going to be tough to find a football player who isn’t local and who is desperate to play for Norwich so there will always be a blend of young players looking up the ladder and older players desperately clinging to the highest level they can. As long as you have a group of 25 players who are working to move in the same direction you can look to build a successful team.

What you don’t want is “leechers”. Players who carry a name and big price-tag, who float around clubs offering the best contract, looking to maintain an expensive lifestyle. I felt like we had a lot of that when we were in the Premier League and the team-spirit just wasn’t there to keep us up.

Norwich may be gearing up for another season or two of cost-cutting, but that may not be a bad thing. It’s a chance to revisit the way Paul Lambert built a side able to fight for promotion; young, hungry players looking to prove themselves.

Daniel Farke will want to continue his model of signing inexpensive lower-division German players who have been coached in the style he wants to play, but the trick he may be missing is beyond the numbers and statistics; the answer isn’t on Opta or wyscout, it’s having a player with the characteristics of a winner and promoting that ethos in the side.

Norwich need another breed of players who Lambert coached in the 2010/11 season, who knew how to rescue a point or find a winner in additional time, (about 14-odd times that year!). That will never be replicated, but Farke needs to bring back the excitement at Carrow Road next season, with a team that plays entertaining football and knows how to win.

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