All you need to know about Angus Gunn ahead of his City return
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
The future was looking extremely bright for Angus Gunn as his successful loan with hometown club Norwich City came to an end in 2018 but it’s proved to be a frustrating three years for the goalkeeper since his departure.
Now, with a return to Carrow Road understood to be close, Gunn finds himself at a crossroads.
His season on loan from Manchester City coincided with a time of transition after Daniel Farke’s arrival as head coach, ending in 14th place in the Championship, but it had kick-started his career.
Arriving as a 21-year-old with an excellent CV at youth levels for club and country, Gunn had been an unused substitute for 10 games during Pep Guardiola’s first season at the helm at Manchester City.
Norwich were looking for a replacement for John Ruddy and turned to their former academy prospect and son of club legend Bryan Gunn, who remains fourth in City’s all-time appearances list having been named Player of the Season twice while making 477 appearances between 1986 and 1998 – 304 of which were in the top flight, which remains the most of any Canaries player.
It meant big gloves to fill for the Norwich-born keeper, who attended Framingham Earl High School, but also the addition of a player who fully understood the challenge awaiting him.
The iconic image of his father showing him around the Gunn Club as a six-year-old, watching the likes of Darren Huckerby and Wes Hoolahan strut their stuff as a supporter at Carrow Road, progressing through the academy ranks since he was eight – returning to Norwich City meant a great deal for Angus.
In total during 2017-18, he kept 16 clean sheets in 51 games and was an ever-present in the Championship, missing just one League Cup game.
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He finished third in the voting for Player of the Season behind winner James Maddison and runner-up Grant Hanley having been called into the England senior squad as injury cover and set a new club record along the way.
As for everyone at Norwich, things were looking bleak after a 4-0 thrashing at Millwall left City third from bottom and alarm bells ringing for the new regime.
Keeping five consecutive league clean sheets to start an unbeaten run of eight matches earned Gunn a place in the record book and earned the trust of Farke.
Winning 1-0 at Ipswich thanks to a Maddison strike was followed by very nearly knocking Arsenal out of the League Cup fourth round, only for the Gunners to salvage an extra-time victory at the Emirates.
A couple of weeks later and Gunn was on the bench at Wembley during a 0-0 friendly draw with Brazil, after stepping up from the under-21 squad to replace the injured Jack Butland.
It wasn’t all plain sailing, of course. Conceding four during defeats at Hull and QPR, and five during a miserable final game at Sheffield Wednesday, brought harsh lessons.
But a season featuring too many draws ensured that a mid-table finish was not to be blamed on Gunn, whose consistency, reactions and distribution proved he could be trusted as a safe pair of hands.
So it was little surprise to see Southampton splash £10million - potentially rising to £13.5m - to take him to the south coast in 2018 but with City bringing in Tim Krul on a free transfer and kicking on to win the Championship title, it had proved a positive parting.
A fight for the gloves awaited at St Mary’s though, with Saints boss Mark Hughes initially sticking with Alex McCarthy as his number one and using Gunn in three League Cup ties. That changed after the December arrival of Ralph Hasenhuttl though.
Keeping a clean sheet during a 0-0 Premier League draw at Chelsea in January 2019 eventually pushed Gunn ahead of McCarthy and the former Canaries keeper started 11 of the final 12 games as Southampton steered clear of relegation trouble.
McCarthy retained the squad number one but it was Gunn that started 2019-20 as Hasenhuttl’s first choice. However, that only lasted 10 games, after a nightmare evening in the pouring rain.
The Saints imploded to a record-equalling Premier League defeat, losing 9-0 to Leicester, being reduced to 10 men with a red card after the first goal. It was a night when Gunn didn’t necessarily make any major errors but after being left extremely exposed too often, the goals kept flying past him – with former team-mate Maddison rubbing salt into the wounds with a free-kick.
Other than three FA Cup ties, the rest of the season would be spent watching the top-flight action from the bench as Southampton finished comfortably in mid-table.
With Fraser Forester returning as competition after a successful loan at Celtic, Gunn was left out in the cold and decided to head back to the Championship this season, joining Stoke in October after the Potters had sold Jack Butland to Crystal Palace.
Former Barnsley keeper Adam Davies picked up a knee injury and Gunn had his opportunity.
Again, luck deserted him. After four appearances and with a Norwich reunion in Staffordshire not far away, an ankle injury in training left him sidelined him for two months.
Academy product and England U21 international Joe Bursik was recalled from Doncaster and impressed but Gunn reclaimed the gloves in January and with Davies fit as well, Bursik went back out on loan and helped Peterborough to seal promotion from League One.
A return to Carrow Road proved an unhappy occasion as the eventual champions were inspired by the return of Emi Buendia from suspension and romped to a 4-1 win.
Then with play-off hopes all but over, a 3-0 defeat at Middlesbrough in March saw Davies chosen by Michael O’Neill, with Gunn’s only appearance of the last 10 matches being a 3-2 home defeat to Coventry.
The Stoke Sentinel report that the initial agreement with Southampton was for the loan to continue until the end of 2021-22 but that O’Neill now sees Bursik and Davies as preferred options.
All of which leaves the 25-year-old facing uncertainty, with two years remaining on his contract at Southampton and with 12 England U21 caps and 136 senior appearances on his CV, 22 of which were in the top tier.
He became a father in September when his daughter, Blake, was born and will no doubt be keen for stability.
With Southampton seemingly willing to sell and with his close ties to the Canaries already in place, it seems the comforts of home could provide an ideal next step.
Norwich are looking for good competition and cover for number one Tim Krul and in Gunn they will see untapped potential, a good character perhaps in need of a bit of confidence.
Returning to City is likely to require patience but with Krul potentially in action at the Euros for Holland this summer, his future could well be the subject of speculation next summer.
After three excellent seasons of rebuilding his career after injury, the 33-year-old could be in demand if he plays his part in earning Premier League survival. Yet should it result in another relegation, it seems unlikely Krul will be keen on another Championship tour of duty.
As ever with a keeper though, you’re only one injury away from getting your big chance, with Michael McGovern needed during both of the last two seasons and youngster Daniel Barden featuring as well.
Schalke loanee Ralf Fahrmann also provided strong competition during 2019-20 but an injury of his own robbed him of the chance to impress properly during a short Krul absence.
The German seemed to bring the best out of Krul though and strong competition from Gunn would certainly keep the Dutchman on his toes.