Iwan Roberts: Will Jordan Hugill have the Libbra Effect?
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Well, the new season is upon us after what feels like the shortest summer on record – and I’m sure you are all really looking forward to it after the disappointment of the last one.
From what I’ve seen, the lads look in great spirits and I sense a good feel of togetherness around the camp, which is vital if a return to the Premier League at the first time of asking is going to be achieved.
Unlike last summer, Stuart Webber has been extremely busy in the transfer market, doing some very early business which is always good for new players coming in as it gives them more time to settle in and get used to their new work environment.
I’ve got to be honest, I’m not too familiar with a couple of the new signings. Quite a few of them are at the beginning of, hopefully fantastic, careers. Potentially they may be a bit raw around the edges. However, I’m sure they will create healthy competition for starting places, which should get a reaction and bring the best out of some of the lads that have been here for a while.
I can remember when we signed Marc Libra in 2001 and the form he showed in our pre-season games, especially his hat-trick at Fakenham. After that I thought to myself, ‘I’ve a right battle on my hands to keep this bloke out of the team’.
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In only our second game of the season, Marc showed his class against Manchester City at Carrow Road, scoring one of the best goals of the season, a goal that Norwich fans still talk about to this day – and all within seconds of coming off the bench for yours truly.
He twisted Stuart Pearce inside out to score our opening goal with his first touch, and even though I celebrated the goal on the sidelines as if I’d scored, I thought to myself, ‘I’m in trouble here with him around the place’.
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All I could do was get my head down and work hard. It didn’t matter what I had done the season before. I wasn’t guaranteed a place in the starting XI, and rightly so. I would have to earn it, which I didn’t have a problem with. That season I played only 34 games due to injuries and scored 14 goals, which is just over a goal every two games, which I was very happy with.
The reason I tell this tale about Marc is that I’m hoping the signing of Jordan Hugill (who I think is a very good addition for the club) will have a similar effect on Teemu Pukki, who really looked to be suffering from a lack of confidence in the second half of last season, especially when the season restarted back in June.
I’m not a fan of making predictions before the transfer window closes, as you don’t know what managers have to work with for the next few months, but I’ve been asked to do so, so here goes...
I look at the strength and depth of the squad that Daniel Farke has at his disposal, add to that the quality, and he’s got as strong a squad as any manager in the league. I’m not going to dwell on what happened last season; this squad has quality in abundance and they showed that when they comfortably won the league a couple of years ago.
So at this precise time I’d go for Norwich going up as champions. If they can keep all their stars I think Brentford, in their brand new stadium, will go one better than they did last season and finish second.
In terms of play-off winners I’m going for Cardiff City. They were unlucky in last season’s play-off semi-final, especially the second leg at Craven Cottage. Much like Norwich, they’ve signed a big centre forward in Kieffer Moore, who should only add goals to a team that ended last season as the Championship’s fourth top scorers.
So there you go, they are my predictions as things stand right now. We all know a lot can change from now and when the transfer window closes, but as things stand as you can all tell I’m so optimistic and quietly confident that it’s going to be a very good season for Norwich City.