John Ruddy’s misfortune gives Mark Bunn his big Norwich City opportunity
There may have been a few raised eyebrows back in August when Norwich City manager Chris Hughton decided to add another senior goalkeeper to his Premier League squad.
But the City boss will be hoping the decision to sign Mark Bunn from Blackburn Rovers for a reported �1m will be seen as a wise move in the weeks ahead following the news of John Ruddy’s prospective three-month absence from the first team because of a thigh injury.
Former boss Paul Lambert chose to go through the Canaries’ first season back in the top flight with home-produced youngsters Declan Rudd and Jed Steer as back-up for Ruddy. Between them they were called upon for just six appearances last term, all but two of those in cup competitions.
By contrast, the 28-year-old Bunn looks set for an extended run in the side after England goalkeeper Ruddy’s injury, sustained at Goodison Park on Saturday, proved to be serious enough for surgery.
Despite his age, and a four-year spell in the top flight with Blackburn Rovers, Bunn has only eight Premier League games under his belt, and that includes Saturday’s late introduction for City against Everton and a sound display in Wednesday night’s 1-1 draw at Southampton.
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But he was understudy to England ’keeper Paul Robinson at Ewood Park, is now working with England goalkeeping coach Dave Watson, and is highly rated by Hughton.
And past experience suggests his performances could be the most important of any City player over the winter months.
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More than once, the Canaries have suffered from the way they have dealt with the loss of their most senior goalkeeper.
Those with long memories will recall that they did not settle on a long-term successor to Kevin Keelan for more than 12 months after his final game, and they were embroiled in an ultimately unsuccessful battle against relegation by the time Chris Woods arrived from Queens Park Rangers in 1981.
An element of complacency set in at Carrow Road back in 1994-95 when first choice ’keeper Bryan Gunn suffered a dislocated ankle and fractured fibula, ruling him out for the last 21 Premiership games – exactly half the season.
City, comfortably placed in the table at the time, decided to rely on the 19-year-old Andy Marshall – apart from a brief but disastrous loan spell for Simon Tracey – and well though Marshall performed in very difficult circumstances, it was an unfair burden to place on such an inexperienced goalkeeper and arguably contributed to the fact that they were relegated once again.
More recently, the departure of Robert Green in 2006, after five years as undisputed first choice, led to City using five goalkeepers in one season.
There was an element of stability when David Marshall arrived and played 100 consecutive first team games, but even the Scotland international could not prevent City dropping into League One at the end of his second full season with the club.
Lambert recognised the need to sort out the goalkeeping position when he first arrived in 2009 by recruiting Fraser Forster on loan from Newcastle.
Hughton, similarly proactive, declared himself “delighted” with Bunn’s capture three months ago.
“He is one we have brought in for competition - very much so. He is a ’keeper that will give us valuable experience and competition at first-team level,” said the City boss. Speaking of his back-up role earlier in the season, Bunn admitted: “It does get a bit frustrating but it’s down to me when I get a chance to grab it.”
He gave himself a head start with the home crowd with his marvellous penalty save from Clint Dempsey in the Capital One Cup victory over Tottenham – now Ruddy’s misfortune has given him the opportunity to build on it.