Angus Gunn on Farke, Wes, Krul and whether he would return to City
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Angus Gunn lived his dream as number one at Norwich City for a season - and isn’t ruling out another spell with the Canaries one day, as he prepares to face his boyhood club for the first time.
The 24-year-old spent the 2017-18 season back in Norfolk on loan from Manchester City and made 51 appearances, only missing one cup game as he enjoyed his first sustained period of senior action.
That earned him a £13.5million move to Southampton but after 22 top-flight appearances he now finds himself on loan at Stoke City with the hope of being in the Championship promotion mix - with a home game against Norwich on Tuesday looming.
“When I first signed, that was one of my targets, to play every league game,” Gunn reflected, ahead of that match. “To actually achieve it with the gruelling fixture list that we had and a decent run in the League Cup, was pretty cool, getting to play some of the big teams.
“Looking back, the whole season just went so quickly and they say that time flies when you’re enjoying yourself, which obviously was an unbelievable feeling to play not just one game but the whole season.”
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Gunn was on the bench for both of Southampton’s games against City last season, after a shock 9-0 home loss to Leicester saw him benched by Ralph Hasenhuttl.
His full focus is now on success at Stoke but the Canaries will always be special to the Norwich-born former academy keeper and son of club legend, Bryan Gunn.
On the prospect of returning to City if the opportunity arose in the future, he added: “Obviously growing up one of my dreams was to play for Norwich and I’ve managed to tick that off and do it - but at the same time you can never see the future.
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“At the moment I’m at Stoke, on loan from Southampton, it’s a great opportunity for me to try and get some more game time in the Championship this season and get back to that sort of rhythm where you’re playing week in, week out, and you’re getting that feel-good factor.
“When it’s stop-start it’s hard to do that and at the moment this is a great opportunity for me to do that. You can never tell the future and it’s obviously the club I grew up supporting, so sometimes, these things happen...”
Gunn became a father in September when his daughter Blake was born, just over a month before he started a new chapter professionally when returning to the Championship as he joined Stoke late on transfer deadline day, after Jack Butland’s move to Crystal Palace had been sealed.
“I’m really enjoying it,” said the proud new dad. “It was a bit of a weird time, knowing that I was probably on the move somewhere but when it got so late I just tried to focus on that in the end and enjoyed my first few weeks with the little one before the move.
“So we timed it pretty well, to be fair. It’s an unbelievable experience, it’s the best job in the world, isn’t it?!”
The switch has allowed the keeper to move closer to the Gunn family home in Cheshire, which is where he met girlfriend Phoebe after they left Norfolk in 2011.
That was when Angus joined Manchester City as a 15-year-old - with a £250,000 compensation fee decided at a tribunal, with add-on fees to follow - and his father joined a sports agency in the north-west.
Yet six years later he was returning to Norfolk with the ink dry on a long-term deal with the Premier League giants and a chance to fulfil his dream of wearing the number one shirt for boyhood club Norwich City.
He arrived at a time of great change but, as has become a prevalent theme of Daniel Farke’s reign, his inexperience would prove no barrier to his burgeoning talent.
“He’s demanding and expects a lot from young players but at the same time, the trust he put in us was second to none really,” Gunn said of his time with Farke.
“Even if you had not the best game, obviously he’d be hard on you but at the same time you’d still be starting the next game and that kind of gives you confidence in itself, knowing that you’ve got the backing of the manager - through the good times, but more importantly through the bad as well.”
The trust of City fans had been earned as well, finishing third in Player of the Season voting for 2017-18 behind Grant Hanley and winner James Maddison - although at the end of a transitional season which saw Norwich finish 14th in the Championship.
During the early stages of that campaign Gunn also managed something that even his dad hadn’t during his 477 appearances, keeping a club record five consecutive league clean sheets.
“It was a great achievement for myself and the back-line,” he continued. “But just like the whole season, all the experiences were unbelievable, and even some of the negatives ones, sometimes you learn a bit more from them.
“So I wouldn’t change any of that season for anything really.”
Squeezing 51 appearances in would earn his big move to Southampton - but also allowed Gunn to play alongside one of his City idols, Wes Hoolahan.
“To train with him every day and to be around him was great,” he added. “His last game at Carrow Road was one of those games you’ll never forget, the atmosphere at the end of that game was pretty special.”
Gunn is close friends with Josh and Jacob Murphy and keeps in touch with academy team-mates such as Harry Toffolo, who is now playing regularly in the Championship for Huddersfield - who went on to win the FA Youth Cup without him in 2013.
Now he is preparing to face the Canaries for the first time though, having been on the bench for Southampton during both games last season, as Farke takes his squad to Staffordshire on Tuesday.
His replacement as City’s number one, reigning Player of the Season winner Tim Krul, will be at the other end of the pitch and Gunn hailed the decision to sign the former Newcastle number one on a free transfer from Brighton in 2018 despite his previous injury issues.
“It was one of those where from a personal level it would have been great to go back but I didn’t feel like a loan was the right fit for me again,” the former Framingham Earl High School pupil says of his Canaries exit.
“So I made the decision pretty early to try and leave Man City on a permanent. There were a few options in the Premier League and Southampton was the one that I felt was the best fit.
“It got quite late to the end of the transfer window for when Tim came in and everyone was looking to see who would be the number one, but obviously they brought Tim in as a free transfer and I don’t think anyone could have envisaged how well he’s done.
“He’s been unbelievable for the club and that first season he went from strength to strength. Last season was tough for him but at the same time he performed pretty well in a struggling team!
“He’s been great for the club and it’s been great to see the recognition that he’s getting now later in his career.”
- Watch out for more from our exclusive interview with Angus Gunn ahead of Tuesday’s game at Stoke