Mission accomplished, so how do Norwich City’s players stack up?
As Paul Lambert is so quick to remind everyone, as far as Norwich’s success is concerned it’s all about the players and the often staggering efforts they have put in. But who’s performed well, who hasn’t and who can we expect to be around for 2012-13? Here are my player by player ratings and review of the season.
• Daniel Ayala (5) Hard to assess his relative merits when been on the sidelines for so much of the season. Looked good mid-season when got a couple of games in but his injuries are a worry.
• Leon Barnett (5) Feel a bit sorry for him because he’s not been the only centre-back to make mistakes. Lambert obviously doesn’t feel he has the quality required and he’ll be on his way.
• Elliott Bennett (7) Like so many of Lambert’s signings has vastly improved given a bit of time to settle in. Now a key player and next season could be a massive one for him.
• Ryan Bennett (6) His talent is obvious and I think he’s a potential City captain of the future. Has made one or two mistakes, but his run of games was all about getting him ready to kick-on in 2012-13.
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• Andrew Crofts (6) One of my favourite players because of the effort he puts in and key role he played in getting us here. Is he Premier League quality, though? I’m not so sure and think he may go in the summer.
• Adam Drury (7) Has played fewer games than some I have given lower ratings to, but that’s because of the quality he has shown in them. I’d give him one more year for sure.
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• David Fox (8) He’s one of a few players who may feel their season has faded out a bit, but you cannot underestimate his pivotal role during so many of our wins. Out of contract and I’d be gutted to see him leave.
• Grant Holt (10) What is there left to say about our number nine other than ‘Get him on the plane, get him on the plane’? He’s Norwich’s real-life Roy of the Rovers and has shown intelligence and class many City fans probably didn’t credit him.
• Wes Hoolahan (9) Every top club needs a player like Hoolahan, someone who can transform games with a piece of skill, and we’re lucky to have him. Five goals is a decent return, but it’s the goals he creates that have so often made the difference.
• Johnny Howson (8) Hard to believe he’s played just 10 games in the Premier League. He dominated the midfield against Arsenal and I reckon he’ll do the same time and time again next season.
• Simeon Jackson (6) He may feel he’s earned more starts than he’s received, but that’s more because Lambert’s preferred style doesn’t always suit him. He’s at a bit of a career crossroads and may be on his way.
• Bradley Johnson (7) A strange one to rate really as he’s been in and out, but we mustn’t forget he looked so good earlier in the season he was strongly linked to an England call-up.
• Simon Lappin (6) After just three league games he probably deserves a smaller score but I added points for being the subject of best chant of season to Manchester City’s David Silva, which went along the lines of ‘Poor (sic) Simon Lappin, you’re just a poor (sic) Simon Lappin’.
• Chris Martin (4) Hard to see where he fits in any more, and a move back to the Championship seems likely and the best way to move his career forward again. He’s been a major part of our turnaround, though.
• Russell Martin (8) Over the course of the season he’s been our best defender by far and I’m still to be convinced he remains a right-back who can fill in at centre-back, rather than the other way around.
• Steve Morison (7) A more than decent return of 10 goals, in 36 games (several of them sub appearances), yet still many a Norwich fan will claim he’s been a failure, which is nonsense. Does sometimes need to pull up a few more trees but I do hope next season he’s still around and people get off his back a little.
• Kyle Naughton (7) One of those players who does a consistently good job week in, week out but possibly goes unnoticed. Would love to see him back next season.
• Anthony Pilkington (8) If he ended the season the way he started it we’d all be waxing lyrical about him. Scored some vital goals before fading out somewhat. Will hopefully return a better player for 2012-13.
• Declan Rudd (5) Has probably dropped down to third in the pecking order through no real fault of his own. Time for a loan spell to get a run of games in?
• John Ruddy (9) If goalkeepers were charted for goals saved, in the same way strikers are for ones scored, he’d be near the top. No way he’d look out of place in an England shirt and that’s probably the best compliment to pay him.
• Jed Steer (6) He’s only played twice but a good season for him nevertheless due to the number of times he’s been on the bench. Looks like he’s beefed up quite a bit.
• Andrew Surman (7) Another who should be pleased with his overall contribution as well as his goals scored. Puts in a surprising amount of mileage and someone else who has improved considerably under Lambert.
• Marc Tierney (6) Yet another who enjoyed the 2011 part of the season much more than 2012. Never looked out of his depth in the Premier League though, and I hope he’s back in the frame by August.
• James Vaughan (5) So far, sadly, many Norwich fans’ fears over his ability to stay fit have been realised. Have to feel sorry for him as he’s clearly got class and clearly cares. Get him fit and he could be a real crowd favourite.
• Elliott Ward (5) I do feel he’s one of those players who, for some reason, fans slate much sooner than they would others. However, that said he’s had a few torrid games, although admittedly up against some top, top strikers. Here next season? Jury’s out.
• Zak Whitbread (6) Fit, he’s our best defender by far, but I do worry about just how much he gets injured, something which I’m sure Lambert won’t have ignored when in talks about any new contract.
• Aaron Wilbraham (6) In many ways a revelation because he’s gone from being a bit of a comedy figure among fans to a deserved cult hero.
To be fair to him, he’s caused problems when he’s played. Whether he’s around next season though, remains to be seen.