Who's next on the wishlist?
Norwich boss Paul Lambert is spoilt for choice as he prepares to launch the second phase of his summer squad makeover. PADDY DAVITT delves into the ever-expanding PFA transfer list for some cluesRest assured Paul Lambert's mobile phone is getting as much action as those World Cup vuvuzelas.
Norwich boss Paul Lambert is spoilt for choice as he prepares to launch the second phase of his summer squad makeover. PADDY DAVITT delves into the ever-expanding PFA transfer list for some clues
Rest assured Paul Lambert's mobile phone is getting as much action as those World Cup vuvuzelas.
Carrow Road may sit silent over the summer recess - bar the odd hammering of nail or tightening of screw as work on raising the ground capacity gathers pace ahead of City's Championship return.
Lambert's task is to mould a group of players capable of gracing it. Renew and refresh a title-winning squad that ran away with League One. The Scot is not one for resting on his laurels. Within days of saluting massed ranks at Norwich Castle five players had departed. Four have already taken their place. Andrew Crofts and David Fox arrived for undisclosed fees. The modern transfer buzzword. Safe to say for fractions of the millions lavished on the likes of Robert Earnshaw and Dean Ashton during the good times.
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City's financial health has been well documented in recent months. The search for fresh investment goes on - but Lambert clearly must get the biggest bang for his buck. Elliott Ward and Steven Smith move on free transfers when their current deals officially expire on July 1 and the free transfer route is an attractive one. Too many players for too few clubs gives managers the whip hand. Power ceded to clubs rather than agents for one rare period in the football calendar.
No artificial transfer deadline or deteriorating league position forcing an under-pressure manager's hand. No inflated wage demands or transfer fees. The PFA's current list of professional footballers touting for business runs into hundreds. All shapes and sizes. All positions catered for. But this is no bargain bucket. There are some deals to be had. And Lambert is no stranger to a deal. Four free transfer signings during his season long stint at Colchester. A rather more glutinous 17 during his two years at Wycombe. Now two already this summer at the League One champions. Expect more arrivals over the coming weeks.
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City fans all know how they want this conversation to end.
“Chris, any chance of letting young Fraser out of your sight again for a season?”
“Paul, the lad loved it down there and what a great place to continue his development. I'll put him on the next train.” Should, however, Forster not be allowed out to play again then Lambert needs a plan B. If he feels Declan Rudd needs another year to mature he could be tempted to find a temporary short term option. Jamie Ashdown is no stranger to these parts after a short but hardly sweet loan spell in 2006.
The 29-year-old was sent off in his second Norwich appearance in a 5-0 defeat at Stoke. Ashdown returned to parent club Portsmouth where he won an FA Cup medal and made eight top flight appearances for Pompey in the season just finished. Solid, reliable, safe option. Fellow City old boys Tony Warner and Andy Marshall are also on the list.
And we all know Marshall would be guaranteed a wonderful reception by the Barclay. Enough said.
Steven Smith's arrival should rule out a move for Fabio Aurelio. That and the ex-Liverpool Samba star's bloated Premiership wages. Elliott Ward hardly turned down a reported clutch of potential suitors to warm the bench in Norfolk so you assume Lambert has found a ready made replacement for Gary Doherty. Zak Whitbread is another Lambert man who can expect to emerge from the shadows. But Norwich are hardly well stocked in the right back berth. Russell Martin was a more than capable mid-season addition and Michael Spillane's versatility will again stand the Irishman in good stead. But Spillane's compatriot Steve Finnan is now surplus to requirements at Cham-pionship new boys Portsmouth. The 34-year-old's star has waned since winning the Champions' League with Liverpool. Nevertheless Finnan came up the hard way and is one of the few players to have operated in all four English divisions. Experience like that can be invaluable to Lambert when Norwich's recent rise inevitably plateaus during stages of next season.
Whether Lambert revives or ditches the diamond formation the ex-Scotland and Celtic man should know a mid-field player when he sees one. The combative Crofts and the ball-playing Fox have been added to the mix already. Lambert wants Darel Russell to return but you can make a convincing argument he needs to inject some extra pace into a squad that only has Anthony McNamee as an out-and-out flyer. Two names on the PFA list stand out like the proverbial. Lloyd Sam has already been linked this summer after his release from Charlton. The 25-year-old can operate on either flank and will turn on the after burners with the best. Or maybe one from left field. Literally. Sean Thornton terrorised City towards the end of the season when he notched a brace in a vital league win for Orient. Thornton drove at Norwich's back line all evening and showed he had an eye for goal with two razor-sharp finishes past Forster. Lambert has no problem plucking players out of the lower leagues if he thinks they have the ability to step up. Consistency is the biggest question mark against the 27-year-old.
City's area of greatest need. Lambert is no mug. He can't rely on Grant Holt or Chris Martin to plunder as many goals in the Championship. Cody McDonald and Oli Johnson have potential but Lambert's loan move for Stephen Elliott towards the end of last season told its own story. Blackpool's recently released Ben Burgess is a target man in the Holt mould. City fans know there is only one Grant Holt but Burgess could offer decent cover. At 6ft 3in and 14st, he has the physical prowess to lead a line and while not the most prolific striker made 40 appear-ances for the Seasiders in a fairytale season that culminated in Premiership promotion. And he's still only 28.
Gary McSheffrey has top flight experience and can operate down the middle as well as wide. Moved to Birming-ham from hometown club Coventry for �4m in 2006 but injuries stunted his progress at St Andrew's. Loan spells at Notts Forest and a less than eye-catching spell at Leeds last season followed but no doubting the 27-year-old's Championship pedigree. Any manager capable of re-igniting McSheffrey's career would have a player on their hands.