Connor Southwell: This is just the beginning for Ben Gibson at City
There are occasions when footballers are unveiled at a new club and it can largely feel like you could rehearse the signing interview off by heart.
Yet, as Ben Gibson made his way around the turf at Carrow Road with a smile on his face, he looked every bit like a man on a mission. That hunger, desire and gratitude has been evident throughout his season-long loan from Burnley.
It would have been easy to shift away from the Turf Moor question. For two years, Gibson had been in the football wilderness and banished from even training with his contracted club.
As he introduced himself and the camera started rolling, every response to each question was genuine. For many, arriving in Norfolk can be a point in their career, for Gibson, it seemed like a release.
Norwich City's pursuit of the defender was extensive.
They sat by and watched other targets get snapped up by fellow Championship clubs as they remained intent on securing Gibson's services. They researched tirelessly before making their move. When those discussions with the 28-year-old began, they weren't far off from recalling his dental records.
He was their number one target. The one defender who had been identified as possessing the conventional qualities to help fix a porous backline but also had the passing quality that Daniel Farke desired.
- 1 NORWICH CITY ARE PROMOTED TO THE PREMIER LEAGUE
- 2 PROMOTION LIVE: Cherries and red card ruin City's party
- 3 Paddy's Pointers: Five observations from the Premier League-bound Canaries' 3-1 defeat against Bournemouth
- 4 Paddy Davitt: Player ratings after Canaries' 3-1 Bournemouth defeat
- 5 Banning orders and revenge mission wide of the mark for City chief
- 6 'Mission Accomplished' - Norwich City fans celebrate promotion
- 7 Farke braced for summer of speculation amid Frankfurt links
- 8 Operation Bounce Back: The story of City's promotion success
- 9 Farke savours sweet Premier League promotion after rollercoaster ride
- 10 City players and fans celebrate promotion on social media
Their persistence paid off.
This was an £8million commitment. In the Canaries terms, that was a big deal. It's a figure almost three times more than the largest fee shelled out since Stuart Webber's arrival in 2017. They had fought off Premier League competition to secure his services.
Gibson has proved why all that work, including a pursuit that lasted weeks, was worth every second. He has elevated City's defence but also become a key component in their well-oiled machine constructed by their German architect.
Eyebrows were raised when Farke discussed his excitement at Gibson's 'vertical passes'.
“Ben is a smart, intelligent football player and he understands what I want from him," Farke said back in October. "He also has all the skills. He is strong in terms of heading and a natural defender, but he is also there with technical skills. I like his vertical passes.”
Set aside his defensive qualities, and that added ingredient has proved pivotal countless times this season. His ability to step into midfield and shift the focus of the attack with a line-breaking pass created numerous opportunities for the Canaries.
In terms of progressive passes into central areas, Gibson ranks in the top five percent in the league. This ball-playing ability isn't a new area of his game, City's recruitment chiefs noticed similar qualities during his time at Middlesbrough.
His current metrics have actually exceeded what he was recording at the Riverside Stadium at his best. Despite his lengthy absence, he has actually improved. His passing is not only accurate, but it is actually adding to the Canaries' offensive phases of play.
That suggests there is more to come from his game should Norwich reach the top-flight and he becomes a permanent player.
Gibson is adding value to what they do from an attacking sense. It's why he is so pivotal to their work in possession as well as just defensively. For the best example of this, re-watch his excellent pass to Emi Buendia as Norwich beat Bristol City back in October.
Being naturally left-footed has provided the Canaries with a balance in their defence. His skill set complements nicely with Grant Hanley and is the reason they have performed so well during this campaign.
All of that context underlines why his injury is a blow to City's work in the Championship. That doesn't mean it will derail. Zimmermann has a different set of qualities, it will still ensure this season ends in promotion.
As for Gibson, he will reflect upon this season with pride. Not only has he been a pivotal part of a team destined for a Premier League return, but he rediscovered his love for the game.
That passion, desire and leadership has benefitted Norwich. Despite the stadiums being empty, the silence is often vacated by his strong Teesside accent, instructing from the back and coaching City's youngsters through matches.
His injury is a big blow, but Gibson can reflect upon the part he played this season with real pride.
After every chapter and verse of his Burnley saga has been spoken about, analysed and reflected upon, the thing he needed most was a fresh start.
The thing is, Gibson is still as determined, as hungry and as genuine as he was when he walked round the pitch at Carrow Road back in September. Be there no doubt, he will be back for pre-season as a permanent player.