Darren Gill sparks Norwich United revival
KEITH PEEL Survival chances looked decidedly slim when Norwich United went into the New Year second from bottom of the Ridgeons League Premier Division table.
Survival chances looked decidedly slim when Norwich United went into the New Year second from bottom of the Ridgeons League Premier Division table.
Eight straight defeats left them with a mere 15 points from the first half of their 42-match programme.
Now the Planters are fifth from bottom, with 30 points from 31 games, and already planning for another top-flight campaign.
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“There's still a long way to go and we're by now means out of danger yet,” cautioned joint manager Paul Franklin, who was Martin O'Neill's right-hand man at Norwich City and Leicester City.
“But if we can get to 37/38 points, I'm fairly confident we will stay up and then hopefully go on to improve our position next season.”
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Franklin said United had struggled to overcome a summer player exodus, with 13 of their squad leaving.
“We went through major changes and were left with a very young side who lacked experience.
“We got into the losing habit and became a side it was too easy to play against.
“We didn't make teams work hard to score against us and they found goals came easily.”
Fortunes started to change for the better after the appointment as joint manager of Bruce Cunningham, who had steered Wroxham to a string of honours before stepping down as Trafford Park boss.
Cunningham, in turn, persuaded former Wroxham midfield general Darren Gill to join him at Plantation Park.
“Bruce has been great about the dressing room and his experience has been absolutely vital,” praised Franklin.
“I will admit my own naivety at this level, but he knows every single player, what they've done and what they will do, and he has been a big influence on what has happened to us.
“Bringing in Darren was the catalyst which started everything off. We desperately needed someone with his experience in the midfield area.
“We managed a few good results and that helped us persuade a few players to come and join the existing squad, which I thought was fairly good anyway.
“The confidence is coming back and we've been getting into the winning habit, which always makes life easier.
“Bruce, coach Donny Pye and I believe we're getting together a squad capable of performing better next season than this.
“The key is keeping everyone together. I don't want a repeat of last year, so we're already making inroads into getting names on paper.
“Everyone seems to be enjoying the structure we have at the moment and the majority of the players have already committed and signed for next season.”
United play Newmarket at Plantation Park tomorrow, when the top Premier Division matches are second-placed Lowestoft against third-placed Bury and fourth-placed Needham Market versus leaders AFC Sudbury.