David Hannant: Loan rangers starting to prove me wrong

Brandon Williams leads the charge in a comeback against Southampton. Dean Smith wants the same intensity for Wolves' visit

Brandon Williams leads the charge in a comeback against Southampton. Dean Smith wants the same intensity for Wolves' visit - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

A few weeks ago I dedicated this column to backing Daniel Farke's approach to using loanees Billy Gilmour and Brandon Williams.

At the time, clearly the German did not feel he was seeing enough from either loan youngster to warrant automatic starting berths, regardless of the stature of their parent clubs. I agreed.

I stand by this sentiment, that both lads only deserve to be in the team if they are willing to put in the graft and reward their selection with performances worthy of wearing yellow and green.

However, since Dean Smith's arrival, the duo have really started to dispel the other strand of the argument I made to support Daniel Farke's sparing use of the youngsters.

My main concern about both players was that I hadn't seen enough to suggest they were truly ready to go to war for the cause.

My words were something along the lines of them seeming prepared to make mistakes and not worrying about having to make amends. I wasn't entirely convinced either saw themselves as Norwich City players which, for this season, they are.

Norwich City's Billy Gilmour during the Premier League match at Carrow Road, Norwich. Picture date:

Billy Gilmour played the full match as Norwich drew 0-0 with Wolves at Carrow Road - Credit: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

The clamour for Billy Gilmour to come straight into the set-up on the back of playing well against rubbish teams for Scotland particularly irritated me - being able to stand out against Moldova doesn't make you an automatic Premier League starter by any stretch of the imagination.

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Likewise, with Williams, I had seen too many occasions where he had made marauding runs, lost the ball, then slumped his shoulders, rather than busting a gut to get back into position and win the ball back.

While I don't take back any of these sentiments - that's genuinely how I felt at the time - my opinion on both lads is rapidly changing.

For WIlliams, these past four games - and I included Daniel Farke's Brentford swansong - have been terrific.

The Manchester United loanee has shown real evidence of how he's managed to play so many times for the Red Devils despite his young age - proving one of the hardest working players on the field.

Whatever Dean Smith has said to put fire under his belly is clearly working and I even feel like there were glimpses against Brentford.

Gilmour has also impressed me since coming in.

In the first half against Southampton, I'll admit feeling he was a little bit of a passenger, but in the second half he was the best player on the park.

And in subsequent games he's also looked among the most likely to make things happen, acting as something of a metronome in the middle - particularly in Matthias Normann's absence. 

For me, it clearly looks like both have taken the arrival of a new head coach as an opportunity to prove themselves again and are putting in the work to earn their places - and now they have them, keep them.

The challenge now will be for them to sustain this momentum - but this doesn't just apply to them.

Dean Smith's appointment does genuinely seem to have given new impetus to the squad, everybody seems to have a little bit of extra wind in their sails.

Looking across his first unbeaten three games in charge, I'd say we've had fairly mixed fortunes, but without tasting defeat. The way I'd describe the results are a good win, a good draw and a bad draw.

Smith was the first to admit that Newcastle did leave a little bit to be desired, but early red cards are sometimes something of a false blessing.

With the benefit of hindsight, had Ciaran Clark not hauled down Teemu Pukki, chances are the Finn would indeed have gone through and put City a goal to the good, rather than a man to the good.

This would have hauled Newcastle out of their shell, forced them to try and take the game to us to equalise and left the defensively frail Magpies prone for the picking.

Instead, the loss of the man instilled a siege mentality in Eddie Howe's team, which ironically turned out to be more awkward to play against than if they we had a goal advantage rather than a man advantage.

But vitally, while we played poorly, we didn't lose.

From all three of Dean Smith's games though, I wouldn't say any opposition would feel aggrieved to have left empty-handed - you'd think even high-flying Wolves probably went away more happy with their point than we were with ours, so that is clear progress.

What I desperately hope is this doesn't turn out to be new manager syndrome.

Clearly a new gaffer on the block will make any footballer try harder to impress and make a good impression - Smith's challenge will be to make sure they continue to want to impress him.

But from what I've seen, read and heard about him, his man-management skills are top notch - that anecdote from John Terry is exactly the kind of thing I want to see.

For me, the early signs of the Smith era are encouraging and a big part of this is how he has turned around the loan tenures of Gilmour and Williams.

In just over a fortnight, deciding which one I'd rather see sent back in the event of Olly Skipp becoming available suddenly has become a tough call. Two weeks ago, my answer would've been "either". If they continue their good form, Skippy may not even cross my mind come January.

Rupp's time to shine

Lukas Rupp of Norwich in action during the Premier League match at Carrow Road, Norwich
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Lukas Rupp's performance against Wolverhampton Wanderers was impressive. - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Like most, when Matthias Normann made it clear he could not carry on against Wolves I gulped with dread

The Norwegian has been far and away our best player so far this season and is influential, so I truly feared the worst.

Not, like some, because Lukas Rupp was coming into the fold though.

I've gone on record many times of saying how the German doesn't deserve the stick he gets from certain quarters - in fact, I rate him.

The past two games he's brought energy, enthusiasm and quality to the midfield and has given himself a real chance of holding up a long term role in the midfield.

Once Normann is fit again, clearly he needs to be brought back in, but I honestly don't think it should be a foregone conclusion that Rupp should make way for him.

Centre midfield is the one area we really are spoiled for choice in - but it's a nice problem to have.

A Shear embarrassment

Alan Shearer is the Premier League's all-time top goalscorer Picture: James Bass/Archant

Alan Shearer is the Premier League's all-time top goalscorer Picture: James Bass/Archant - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2005

I want to make it clear from the outset here, I am a big fan of Alan Shearer the player. 

I also don't actually mind him as a pundit on Match of the Day, his chemistry with Gary Lineker is great fun.

However, his commentary on Amazon Prime on Tuesday night was beyond cringe-worthy.

It felt like the commentary team saw the game as Newcastle versus Billy Gilmour.

It felt like he was doing a shift for local radio where he is expected to be a little bit partisan.

In fact, the whole presentation from Prime very much felt like Newcastle were the protagonists  - right down the Les Ferdinand using the word "we" frequently in his analysis.

I clearly understand the need for pundits with feet in relevant camps, but it would have been nice to see some City representation too - and not just through presenter Simon Thomas who, to his credit, fulfilled his promise of being impartial. Unlike dear Alan.