Brown ready to prove his worth
DAVID CUFFLEY Chris Brown's attacking capabilities will be put to the test on his full debut as Norwich City look for a little FA Cup magic to revitalise their troubled season.
Chris Brown's attacking capabilities will be put to the test on his full debut as Norwich City look for a little FA Cup magic to revitalise their troubled season.
The £325,000 capture from Sunderland has had just 25 minutes' first team action, as a substitute in the 3-1 home defeat by Plymouth, since signing in at Carrow Road. But with top scorer Robert Earnshaw almost sure to be ruled out for the rest of the season after a groin operation, Brown looks certain to be in the starting line-up for the first time in tomorrow's fourth round tie against Blackpool at Bloomfield Road (3pm).
The full shape of the Canaries' front line will not become clear until just before kick-off, but with central defender Jason Shackell a serious doubt with an injured left ankle, a return to the back four for veteran Dion Dublin is on the cards.
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It means Brown could be the spearhead in a 4-3-3 formation with Darren Huckerby and Lee Croft providing the width, or the 22-year-old could be paired with Huckerby, or even 18-year-old Chris Martin, if manager Peter Grant opts for a 4-4-2 pattern.
No matter how he shuffles his pack, Grant is confident Brown will be up to the task after impressing in training.
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He said: “Chris has done very well. I think the biggest thing is that the players look at him now and understand what he can do.
“A few boys had thought we got a snip and he's proved that, even just in training. I think he'll bring something a little bit different to us.
“It says a lot about him that last week I'd given some of the boys who hadn't been home for a while an opportunity to stay with their families in the north, but he didn't want that. He wanted to come back down and do his training.
“So I think that says a lot about the boy. First time away from home, an opportunity to go back and see his family and sort some things out, but he took the opportunity to come back down here and train, so great credit to him. I think we will see the rewards in the closing months of the season.”
Grant would not disclose his plans for Dublin tomorrow but praised his versatility.
“That's the beauty of Dion. He's been a stalwart wherever he's played this year. He's been fantastic for us. I know where he wants to be judged. I know where he likes to play, but that's one of the reasons I brought Chris Brown in, because he's a different player from Dion - similar in stature but technically different.”
Grant's other major decision will be whether to stick with goalkeeper Paul Gallacher or bring in his fellow Scotland international, David Marshall, on loan from Celtic, for his debut.
He said: “David Marshall has been terrific. I know he's a good goalkeeper. A lot of people are very surprised I've got the opportunity to get him. I'm delighted to have him.
“The good thing is him and Gall know each other well through the Scotland set-up. Yet again it's a competition. They're great boys and it's competition now and may the best man win.”
Blackpool were taking no chances with the weather in the build-up to tomorrow's game. Covers were pulled on to the pitch to protect it from overnight frost. The forecast, though, is for milder weather at the weekend.
But Grant urged his players to forget the conditions.
“We've got to go there and be as professional as we were in the last round and forget the pitch. Both teams have got to play on it, don't make it an excuse and make sure we do the job properly.
“I thought that in the last round when we played Tamworth, we were so professional. I thought the way we conducted ourselves throughout the whole Tamworth thing would be a catalyst for the next home game, but then we were very poor.
“That's why the next game is always the most important one. We are only concerned about Blackpool and if that's the catalyst or springboard to push us on, I'll be absolutely delighted, but I'm only concerned about Blackpool, getting through to the next round of the FA Cup.
“That's the way you've got to be. You've got to be single-minded and that's the way you've got to approach it as a player, as a coach as a manager.”
Blackpool are expected to be unchanged after last week's 1-0 win at Leyton Orient in League One.
“We know they have done very well, they are playing with confidence because they are winning games of football,” said Grant.
“They have four strikers, who are all capable of scoring goals, which is important. They have young Wes Hoolahan who plays on the left-hand side who is getting good reports, and boys like Ian Evatt at the back, who has played in the Championship, Michael Jackson who played with Preston during their successful period, and Rhys Evans who was brought up at Chelsea and played with Swindon, so they have a good mixture.
“By all accounts on Saturday, Orient had a hell of a lot of the game but Blackpool won it, and that tells you a lot about some teams because they feel as if they are always capable of winning games as long as they have goalscorers.”