Jim in search of eastern promise
DAVID CUFFLEY Europe could be full of Eastern promise for Norwich City as they step up their search for summer signings. Assistant manager Jim Duffy admitted that Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic were among the countries being scrutinised for new talent as the Canaries look to strengthen their first team squad during the close season.
Europe could be full of Eastern promise for Norwich City as they step up their search for summer signings.
Assistant manager Jim Duffy admitted that Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic were among the countries being scrutinised for new talent as the Canaries look to strengthen their first team squad during the close season.
City boss Peter Grant and his number two share the belief that British is best when it comes to recruiting new players - but they are also hoping to unearth one or two gems on the Continent.
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The Canaries' management team have already spread their wings across much of Europe, a process that will continue in the coming weeks.
Said Duffy: “There is a variety of matches we want to take in. Over the next few weeks, leagues are still going on in Spain, Italy and Ireland.
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“We've looked at Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Bryan Gunn was in Belgium last week looking at players. I've been to Scotland, though that is a little bit of a busman's holiday.”
Eastern Europe was potentially unexplored territory, he said.
“If you look at Poland, they have produced some decent players - Arsenal have just signed the goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski, and there is Marek Saganowski at Southampton. Then there's Istvan Ferenczi, the Hungarian striker at Barnsley, who's scored a few goals,” said Duffy.
“These players are not blessed with all the riches our players have. They have a hunger.
“The players of the Balkan and Baltic states are very determined to go away and prove themselves. They can earn more money than they can back home but are normally not as expensive as in other parts of Europe. From a salary point of view their demands are a little bit more within reach. “They've still got to be good enough. It's not just because they are cheaper. But the area has not been fully looked at.
“The Eastern European market is still developing. France and Italy are very well developed markets and players are more expensive. If you have an interest in a player, there are probably four or five Premiership clubs interested in him too.”
Nevertheless, Duffy, the former Falkirk, Dundee and Hibernian manager, has used contacts in France and Italy to check on possible targets.
He said: “The English market and the British market we know well. Ideally, we would like players who know the league well, and are aware of the demands of the Championship.
“The Championship is a very competitive and demanding league. There are 46 matches and a lot of travel. It's important we do our homework and find out all we can about players, because most European leagues are not as physical as ours.
“So we use our contacts. There are a couple of players in Italy we have inquired about. I spoke to Gianluca Vialli, who used his contacts to find out some more information about players. He knows the British game very well.
“Simon Stainrod, the former Queen's Park Rangers and Sheffield United player, lives in France and is a friend of mine who is still involved in the football side. He knows the Championship, he has an idea of what Norwich have.
“Ideally we would still prefer to take English or British players because with overseas players you may have a language problem, family to consider, players who can't settle because they're homesick.
“You have to eliminate as many risks as possible, but nothing is perfect. There is always a risk even if you sign a player from 20 miles away.”
Duffy's scouting missions are not as glamorous, however, as they may appear.
He said: “People think it's exotic but you fly to a country, get picked up at the airport, you may just have time to drop your things off at a hotel or get something to eat, then go to the game, and then after 10 minutes you think the player is not what we're looking for. It can be frustrating.
“But if you can get in first and find a good player, you get that little buzz, that little bit of excitement.
“There are one or two players we have spoken about and are trying to follow up, but whether we can get them is down to the player, whether they want to come and play, the agent, and so on. It's not that straightforward.
“I don't think Norwich fans will see a team filled up with cheap foreign imports but we may have one or two to supplement the squad.”
After three months at Carrow Road since replacing Doug Livermore as Grant's right-hand man, Duffy admitted City's lack of strength in depth was their biggest problem.
He said: “I have thoroughly enjoyed it. The same as with the vast majority of supporters, we know that when we click we are a match for anyone. The performance against Derby was excellent even though we lost, but we don't have that consistency in performance or in selection because the squad is not strong enough. When we have two or three players out we struggle, so we have to strengthen the squad.
“We are aware of our squad and its strengths, aware of the areas where we feel we need more competition. We need more flexibility, more options and to do that we need to explore as many possibilities as we can.”