In-form Bolton could cause real difficulties for Norwich City
It was never going to be easy up in the north-east on Wednesday night and that’s exactly how it turned out.
Sunderland are a team transformed since Martin O’Neill took over on December 3. He has steered the Black Cats away from a relegation battle to a very comfortable top half place.
I was very lucky to have played under him for a short period of time in my last season at Leicester. He is undoubtedly the best man-manager I have ever played for, and I’m sure Paul Lambert would also reserve praise for him as he worked closely with Martin at Celtic.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Martin O’Neill had a big influence on Paul’s transformation to management, and boy, he’s well on his way to becoming as successful as his good friend.
The players will have to get the disappointment of Wednesday out of their system very quickly as they have a great opportunity to right the wrongs of that performance this afternoon when Owen Coyle brings his in-form Bolton to Carrow Road.
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In their last three games they have beaten Liverpool, gone through to the fifth round of the FA Cup with their victory over Swansea, and gained a valuable point with a goalless draw against Arsenal. People probably would have marked this down as a guaranteed three points a few weeks ago, but, after seeing Bolton’s victory over Swansea (well Swansea’s second string team), they could potentially cause City plenty of problems.
On the subject of the FA Cup, I was delighted to see Norwich go through to the fifth round after their victory against West Bromwich Albion last Saturday. I have a feeling that the Canaries could go a long way in this season’s competition, with some big clubs having already made an early exit.
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In the next round, however, they will face one of my former clubs in Leicester City. I loved my time in the East Midlands, winning two promotions and finishing top scorer in the two-and-a-half seasons I was there. Looking at both teams now I’m very confident that Norwich will go through to the last eight, and then hopefully with a bit of luck the draw will be kind to them.
Tuesday saw the transfer window close and Paul Lambert made one more addition to his squad, signing Peterborough centre-half Ryan Bennett.
I’ve seen Ryan on a few occasions and he’s a solid defender. He’s an England Under-21 international who is very strong in the air and, for a tall lad, quick to cover the ground, which is always a bonus for a defender.
However, he won’t make his debut for at least four weeks as he’s gone back on an emergency loan to Peterborough.
It’s safe to say that the manager has done some very good business over the last couple of weeks bringing in Jonny Howson and now Bennett, both of whom will play their part in the second half of the season.
I have to end this week by giving a special mention to young Jed Steer, pictured, who had a tremendous debut at The Hawthorns, making some outstanding saves in the process.
Jed is another in a long line of quality young goalkeepers that the club has produced over the years, following the likes of Andy Marshall, Robert Green, Joe Lewis and Declan Rudd, the latter already showing how good he is this season. I’m sure in the future Jed will emulate the goalkeepers that have preceded him.