Canary fans optimistic

Canaries stars Robert Earnshaw and Dickson Etuhu have gone, but Norwich City fans are still among the most optimistic of all the Championship clubs for the upcoming season.

Canaries stars Robert Earnshaw and Dickson Etuhu have gone, but Norwich City fans are still among the most optimistic of all the Championship clubs for the upcoming season.

That's according to a new survey conducted by Barclaycard, which reveals, despite the big name departures and last season's hugely disappointing season, the Carrow Road faithful are the sixth most confident in the league.

The controversial sales of top scorer Earnshaw to Derby for £3.5m and midfielder Etuhu to Sunderland for £1.5m, after they activated get-out clauses in their contracts, caused anger among many fans, who felt the duo should have fetched more money.

City fans have become used to top players departing every summer, but many started questioning the ambition of the board, with a few mumblings that it was time for majority shareholders Delia Smith and Michael Wynn-Jones to step aside and try to sell the club to a foreign investor.

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But supporters have been pacified to some degree by Peter Grant's wheeling and dealing in the transfer market over the summer - bringing in no fewer than eight new faces.

That signing spree comes in stark contrast to this time last year, when frustrated fans turned on the board and then manager Nigel Worthington because of the club's failure to make signings in the close season.

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The only new signing that year was winger Lee Croft, a £700,000 capture from Manchester City, and Worthington paid the ultimate penalty for his underachieving side's performances when he was sacked after a 4-1 capitulation to Burnley last October.

Grant came in and, despite a few excellent results, Norwich could still only muster a disappointing 16th place in the Championship.

Many fans, and Canaries club chairman Roger Munby, believe Grant should not be judged until he has completed a full season - and with his own team, rather than that he inherited from Worthington.

With the help of his assistant Jim Duffy and club ambassador Bryan Gunn, Grant has been scouring the transfer market this summer and the team which will run out against Preston on August 11 for the opening day of the season can truly be called his team.

A mini-clearout has seen two of Worthington's least successful signings, Peter Thorne and Matthieu Louis-Jean, exit Carrow Road, while former fan favourite Paul McVeigh and Ian Henderson have been released.

But for supporters, fresh hope comes in the form of no fewer than eight summer signings. Czech striker David Strihavka already shows signs of becoming a cult favourite, while fans were thrilled to see former Canary Jamie Cureton, beloved in the Barclay for dyeing his hair green for a match against Ipswich, return to the club.

Yesterday, to the delight of many supporters, he was joined by another old face, with the return of combative midfielder Darel Russell, four years after he left Norwich for Stoke.

The fact Hearts followers were so sad to see Frenchman Julien Brellier leave the Edinburgh club has also been seen as a good sign.

But many fans feel the capture of Celtic goalkeeper David Marshall could be the most important buy of the summer - finally solving the problem position of who serves between the sticks, which saw Norwich try out five different keepers last year.

John Tilson, acting chairman of the Norwich City Independent Supporters' Association, said he was more optimistic about this season than since the Canaries were relegated from the Premiership three seasons ago.

He said: “The vast majority of people I speak to are looking forward to finally seeing Peter Grant's team. Last season people expected him to wave a magic wand and everything would be hunky dory and that was never going to happen. But I think he has done well over the summer. His hands were tied for Earnshaw and Etuhu, but the people he has got rid of are people the fans had identified as people who should go.

“I think if six of those work out well then we will be challenging for the play-offs.”

Ben East, chairman of Northern Canaries, agreed. He said: “I am really optimistic because Peter Grant seems to really know what he is doing. We have signed players, like Cureton and Russell who are here because they actually want to play for Norwich. I think if we just get one or maybe two central defenders on board we could end up making a challenge for the play-offs.”

Alex Warren, from Waveney Canaries, said: “I'm pleased that Grant has got rid of some of the dead wood and has got in players who are triers. With Etuhu you got one good game and four bad ones, while with Russell hopefully we'll get more consistency.”

The fact the club has sold just over 18,000 tickets for tonight's game against West Ham and only has a few hundred season tickets left for sale demonstrates the wave of optimism currently felt by the fans.

But will this season see a return to the Premiership or will Canary fans once again suffer the indignity of finishing below both Ipswich Town and Colchester United again? Only time will tell…

How do you think Norwich City will fare this season? Write to Evening News Letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE or email

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