Six players to watch in Norwich City’s Championship season
- Credit: PA
There are hidden dangers around every corner in the Championship – Chris Lakey looks at some of the division’s most influential and talented players
Wayne Rooney (Derby)
He may be 34 years old, but the former Manchester United and England star will undoubtedly be one of the Championship’s highest-profile players of the season. Rooney is passing on his wealth of experience to the Rams’ younger players while seeing out the twilight of his playing career – and. in turn, learning the coaching ropes under manager Phillip Cocu.
Don’t expect too many lung-busting runs from Rooney – but do expect him to sit deep and control operations from midfield, Rooney has some big wins over Norwich, with United, but he’s had a couple of dodgy days too – who can forget the game at Carrow Road in April 2005, when City beat Fergie’s Reds 2-0? Rooney was booked for a foul on Darren Huckerby, with Dean Ashton scoring from the subsequent free-kick. He was then dispossessed by Youssef Safri, Norwich broke and Ashton set up Leon McKenzie for the second.
Ollie Watkins (Brentford)
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There’s a chance Watkins may move on at some stage this summer, so while he’s still a Bees player he’s in our ‘ones to watch’ before it’s too late. Sharp as a blade, Watkins banged in 25 goals in 46 games last season as Brentford just missed out on promotion, losing to neighbours Fulham in the play-off final. It’s made him a wanted man, for good reasons.
He’s fast, and is as good through the middle as on the flanks. Past team-mates and coaches say he has a good attitude, high work rate in training and is eager to learn. No silver spoon either – he came through the ranks at Exeter and had a loan at Weston-super-Mare before joining Brentford in 2016.
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Lewis Grabban (Nottingham Forest)
Left Carrow Road four years ago and has worn the colours of five different clubs since – which probably sums up the trouble with Grabban... he doesn’t seem to settle anywhere for too long. A couple of years and he’s gone. City signed him from Bournemouth in 2014. He scored the only goal of the game against Ipswich and netted five times on his first five games. He popped in another five in February, including another in another win over Town, and featured in the play-off final win over Middlesbrough.
But trouble was just around the corner: he was suspended for failing to report for a League Cup game against Rotherham. Apparently, he left the team hotel without permission, with Bournemouth having made several bids for him. Five months later he was gone, Bournemouth paying £7m – which was more than double what City had received for him. For a player who scored in two derby wins over Ipswich, Grabban is far from being a former City favourite.
Eberechi Eze (QPR)
The 21-year-old is eye-catching, to say the least. Not in the same way that, say Adel Taraabt was for QPR – Eze has the talent but perhaps not the attitude. Scores a few, but can pick a pass as well. Bagged himself 14 Championship goals last season, 40 of his 76 shots were on target and he had nine assists as well. That’s why Premier League clubs are sniffing around.
As Les Ferdinand, QPR’s director of football, knows, it will be hard to keep hold of him. “When you have a player of his quality doing well in your team nobody wants to see him go. I had to fend off a few offers in the January window and, I’m sure if he continues to play in the manner he is playing and adds a few more goals to his game, I’m expecting us to get offers during the summer.”
Matty Cash (Nottingham Forest)
A speedy winger converted to a speedy right-back – which makes him a dangerous beast. Despite the winger bit coming first, Cash has clearly made the transformation well, or so the figures would suggest – interpret them as you will, but he was the Championship’s top defensive tackler last season with a total of 110 across his 40 starts.
Good tackles are complemented by good defensive awareness which makes him a huge asset for Forest. At the age of 23 he has bags of time to shine at a higher level.
Freddie Woodman (Swansea)
Was on loan from Newcastle last season and will spend the new campaign at the Liberty Stadium again as Steve Bruce asks him to bide his time before challenging for the Magpies’ number one shirt, currently held by Martin Dubravka. Played every minute last season.
His distribution stands out and he’s a knack with penalties – having saved penalties for England in the European Under-17 Championship final, and the Under-20 World Cup final. His coach at Swansea is Martyn Margetson – who is also the England goalkeeping coach.