It's points that count, but things are looking good
Chris Lakey The summer is over - let the serious business begin. Seven pre-season games have yielded six wins and a draw. Just allow your imagination to wander and then cheat a little - that's 19 League One points.
The summer is over - let the serious business begin. Seven pre-season games have yielded six wins and a draw. Just allow your imagination to wander and then cheat a little - that's 19 League One points.
Colchester, Exeter, Brentford, Wycombe, Hartlepool, Walsall and MK Dons - how much would you give to get six wins and a draw out of that lot at the start of the season?
That's the standard City have set, and while such a start would be beyond most fans' wildest dreams, where nightmares of recent seasons still pop up all too frequently, it's what they must aim for.
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There's little point in winning at Crystal Palace and then beating Wigan only to drop points at home to Colchester on day one.
The cup half full observers won't be alone in thinking summer has treated their team well: Leeds won at Premier League newcomers Burnley on Saturday and on the back of draws against Newcastle - okay, so that's nothing nowadays - and Blackburn will be looking ahead with the same optimism.
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Huddersfield are looking good, a loss to Newcastle a strange blemish, while MK Dons have beaten promoted Wolves.
Most of City's major rivals will be able to find positives from their summer campaigns. It's all about who lives up to them over the course of a League One season.
Bryan Gunn did what we all wanted to do three months ago today and took a big knife and sliced through the team which performed so utterly miserably at Charlton on the final day of last season.
The only players who started Saturday's friendly win over Wigan who started at The Valley were Jon Otsemobor and Gary Doherty.
Gone are David Marshall, Adrian Leijer, Jason Shackell, Sammy Clingan, Alan Lee and David Mooney, with Darel Russell pending. From the bench there's no Stuart Nelson, David Carney or Alan Gow. Of all the aforementioned, six were on loan. Simon Lappin, a sub at the weekend, and Korey Smith, not match fit after injury, were the other starters.
Gunn butchered that squad - then set about gutting the mind-set. Out went the fly-by-night, commitment factor unknown, players who were given a posh room next to a posh golf course for a few weeks without a yellow and green care in the world.
In came players contracted to the club, whose personality profiles fit Gunn's picture of a Norwich City player - and he should know what they look like, he's played with a few over the years.
In return for a half decent salary, 25,000 crowds every other week and a more than decent place to work and live, he asks simply that they try their best and don't let anyone down. It's an attitude thing.
So far, so good, and it seems like the ethos is spreading.
Otsemobor, you may remember, is a player who has never properly and fully utilised his awesome burst of pace, which led to performances that rarely rose above average. It put his place under threat this summer, with Michael Spillane back from a year at Luton with a taste for first team football. When he's played, he's played well: on Saturday he did a fine job alongside Doherty at centre-half.
Otsemobor can't fail to have noticed, and appears to have upped his game, if his performances of pre-season, especially Saturday, are anything to go by. It's a pity he felt the need to refuse press interviews afterwards, but presumably the criticism of last season hurt.
If it did, and it brings displays like this one, then he's benefited. In creating the right mindset, Gunn may have improved one of the players some felt was one of the guilty men last season.
Gunn has brought in enough new faces to field a completely new team, but with the remaining players he's created competition all over the pitch.
And not just competition where a left-back can slot in at centre-half, or a striker at centre-back or, as poor old Russell found himself last season, a midfielder up front. He has three dedicated centre-halves in Doherty, Jens Berthel Askou and Michael Nelson, with Spillane adding cover for good measure. There's Dejan Stefanovic in there somewhere as well, possibly. There are two left-backs - Adam Drury and Rhoys Wiggins, with a third, Lappin, also available. They are all solid citizens who would expect to do a job and more in League One. Anyone who's seen a match in the third tier of English football recently might actually say that goes for most members of the squad - one of those "on paper they should be good" views.
There's all sizes in midfield - the diminutive box of tricks that is Wes Hoolahan; the easy-on-the-eye Matt Gill; the big but skilful Owain Tudur Jones, and Stephen Hughes - one look isn't enough, but he showed some nice touches against Wigan. Add in the versatile Lappin, Matty Pattison, Paul McVeigh and the graceful youngster Tom Adeyemi, who is surely destined for great things, and the phrase "quart into a pint pot" comes to mind.
Simon Whaley has chipped in with goals in pre-season, Grant Holt will get them for sure, although Jamie Cureton looks dreadfully short of confidence and love.
Many people, myself included, thought Cody McDonald would be a certain starter, and he might well have been but for a knee injury which has disrupted his pre-season. It's meant more opportunity for Chris Martin to stake a claim - and he's grabbed it with both hands.
Martin scored twice against Wigan, coming in from the left flank of a 4-3-3 formation - if Gunn reverts to 4-4-2 for the League One campaign and Martin moves in closer to Holt, you get the feeling there might be more goals for him.
Like Spillane, Martin had a season at Luton - perhaps Glenn Roeder did both them and City a favour when he sent them "down there" as he often referred to League Two. Maybe, maybe not. But had they returned with the frivolous, immature attitude the previous manager accused them of having, then you doubt whether they would have been starting against Wigan on Saturday.
This, it is safe to say, is most definitely Bryan Gunn's team, not Glenn Roeder's.