So it begins again - City hoping for winning start in opening friendly at Dereham Town
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Norwich City begin their preparations for the 2022/23 campaign at Dereham Town tonight and Dean Smith will be hoping for a winning start to pre-season.
The Canaries travel to Aldiss Park hoping to build up their fitness reserves and blow off the cobwebs after a month since the end of their dismal Premier League campaign.
Although results are meaningless in warm-up fixtures, especially at this stage, Smith will be hoping a winning start will help with changing the narrative after a bruising relegation last season.
Smith is expected to heavily rotate his squad, especially in the early part of pre-season but this fixture is likely to come too soon for the cohort of internationals who have been handed an extended break to recover - that includes the likes of Tim Krul, Teemu Pukki and Grant Hanley.
New signing Isaac Hayden could feature, although has been stepping up his recovery from a long-term knee injury sustained at Newcastle United last season. Adam Idah and Andrew Omobamidele may return from the fitness woes that ruled them out of the second half of last season.
There may also be a homecoming of sorts for Dereham-born Todd Cantwell, who has returned to the club after Bournemouth elected against activating his £11m option to convert his loan move to a permanent earlier in the summer.
For Dereham, the game represents an opportunity to gather some much-needed revenue as they look to surpass their record crowd of 3,000 set in this fixture back in 2004.
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Adam Gusterson, first-team manager of the Magpies, believes the game acts as a chance for the non-league club to show themselves to City supporters but remains realistic about the type of game that may be in store.
“It’s a fantastic fixture for us, there are no two ways about that. It’s one we are very much looking forward to,” Gusterson said.
“It’s a great opportunity for the players to play against professional players and pit their wits against that calibre of opponent. It’s really good for us and hopefully, it will be good for them.
“Realistically for us, it’s going to be a tough night and a difficult game. We aren’t going to see much of the ball and it’s going to be tough. We will suffer in large portions of it but it’s a great opportunity for us to welcome a professional team to Aldiss Park and as a club, we are really looking forward to it.”
It's been a turbulent summer off the pitch for Dereham after they were switched from the Isthmian League North Division into the Northern Premier League Midlands Division One which has resulted in key players departing the club.
Gusterson has been forced to recruit some new faces into his squad and it is expected that the Magpies team will have a youthful feel to it later tonight.
The aim for those players is to work on their efforts against the ball in preparation for the new campaign, but Gusterson wants to ensure they enjoy the occasion of the fixture.
For the step four side, Norwich City's arrival brings a razzamatazz to the town that will hopefully offer those attending tonight's game a look at how Dereham is run. The key for Gusterson is that they present themselves as a viable alternative for those hoping to watch local football on Canaries-free weekends.
“There will be people who come to the game that won’t be regular attendees of our games and some who haven’t ever been there before," Dereham's boss said.
“For us, it’s important we put on an experience for everyone there and that could be as simple as making sure people can get a drink nice and easily and are feeling warmth as they come into the ground.
“In these types of fixtures there will be Norwich fans who are local that will be season ticket holders and when Norwich are away, they might not go to the games. In that scenario, we want to line ourselves up as the next offering.
“Our attendances when Norwich are at home at 3pm on a Saturday are 30 or 40 lower than they would be normally. There is that appetite there from the Norwich fans to watch their local side when they can. It’s about making it a welcoming place to come for people.
“On the pitch, I hope we give a good account of ourselves and show that we are a decent side and play at a decent level. That might entice people to give us another look during the season.
“We have to capitalise on it. These fixtures don’t come around very often and when they do, it’s important we make the most of it.”
For those hoping to attend tonight's fixture, it will be cash on the gate only with prices set at £10 for adults and £5 for under-16s. The gate and bar are open from 5pm with parking free but based on a first-come, first-served basis.
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