Come in Norwich City’s number seven, and collect your award
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
There will doubtless be more immediate concerns on the minds of Norwich City supporters than just who is likely to collect the player of the season award at the final Premier League home match of 2012-13 in nine days’ time.
Tomorrow’s visit of Aston Villa carries the kind of significance most of us hoped would be avoided when scanning the fixture list last June to find out when former boss Paul Lambert would be back at Carrow Road with his new club.
The fact Villa have already made one previous visit in the Capital One Cup, an unhappy one from City’s point of view, takes none of the edge away from what is a vital match for both sides as they seek to secure their top-flight futures.
One can only hope that it will be third time unlucky for Lambert as a visiting manager after his 7-1 and 4-1 successes with Colchester and Villa, respectively, and that we are not treated to the customary Highland Fling along the touchline.
But, appropriately this week, it’s on to election matters.
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With the closing date for votes next Tuesday, time is running out to decide the recipient of the Barry Butler Memorial Trophy when it is presented for the 47th time before the visit of West Bromwich Albion on Sunday week.
And if the Canaries can all but secure another season in the Premier League tomorrow, it’s fair to say fans might be in a more relaxed frame of mind to make their choice in the annual poll over the last few days of voting.
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It would be true to say it has not been a vintage year for candidates – and that there is little or no likelihood of Grant Holt extending his run of success to four awards in a row after the six-week contract wrangle of last summer and a lean campaign in front of goal.
There are three, possibly four genuine contenders for the trophy.
Central defenders Sébastien Bassong and Michael Turner will certainly garner support for their consistency at the back since first being paired together in the 1-0 home victory over Arsenal in October.
It is no coincidence that the three league games in which Bassong has not featured this season have all ended in five-goal defeats.
Turner’s renaissance since a very difficult opening day at Fulham has been one of the most heartening features of the campaign, and though there have been one or two uncomfortable afternoons since – the defeat at Liverpool being the prime example – he has become justifiably first choice when fit.
The back four have also contributed a third of City’s league goals, with these two scoring three each, all but one contributing to wins or draws.
Midfielder Bradley Johnson may be considered a dark horse for the award. The former Leeds man doesn’t get the same acclaim as some of his colleagues but has missed only one league game and if there are elements of his game that are stronger than others, he can never be accused of giving any less than 100 per cent.
But there can be only one winner and my vote would go to Robert Snodgrass.
Unlike the other three, the 25-year-old winger is in his first season in the Premier League and is one who has taken to his new territory very commendably.
He has missed only one league game, made more appearances in all competitions than any other player, scored the most goals – albeit only six, and five of those away from home – and has been responsible for a string of assists.
Snodgrass has been City’s most consistent attacking threat, has worked his socks off and has not been afraid to do his share of defensive duties when needed.
His game is not perfect – his delivery is not always spot-on, his heading could improve, as he jokingly admits, and after taking until January to collect his first booking, he has somehow managed to accumulate eight yellow cards, some needlessly.
But I reckon he’s a worthy successor to the small band of Scots to have been named City’s player of the season – following in the footsteps of Hugh Curran, Ken Foggo, Duncan Forbes, Bryan Gunn, Robert Fleck and Gary Holt. The current No 7 deserves to be number seven on the list.