Chris Hughton is delighted with what he’s seen so far at Colney, after his first week in a tracksuit as Norwich City manager.
Because of Euro 2012 and a later-than-normal start to the Barclays Premier League season, Hughton – who replaced Paul Lambert at the City helm around five weeks ago – had to wait until Monday to get started on the Canary training field.
And despite adding Jacob Butterfield and Steven Whittaker to the mix from Barnsley and Rangers respectively, he has inherited a largely unchanged squad from the one that exceeded all expectations last year to finish 12th in their first season back in the top flight since 2005.
Like his group of players, former Newcastle and Birmingham chief Hughton is clearly pleased to have the boots back on after a summer break.
“I think there would be something wrong if you didn’t have a group here who were desperate to get back and underway,” said Hughton on Canaries Player today. “All in all, it’s really good to be back.
“They’re a good group – that you can tell. And there probably aren’t many differences to what I already knew. Sometimes you can tell that in the way that they play and the spirit that they have and there are a lot of lads here who know each other and know each other well. That’s been quite evident from day one.”
Hughton, who speaks with such clarity and confidence in front of media, has now had a week on the training field to top up any previous knowledge he had on the class of 2012.
But I’d be surprised if there were wholesale changes to the starting eleven come that opener at Fulham on August 18, when hopefully the weather will be a bit brighter after yet another day of torrential rain across the county today.
Many would argue that if it’s not broke, why fix it? But you cannot stand still in the Premier League either, especially not while the likes of QPR continue to bolster their squad, whether you agree with their transfer policy or not.
“I’ve got a fair idea [what areas need strengthening] but that’s really just based on what I know and from last season. But the biggest judgements will be over this period of time. We’re now back in training and there may be opportunities to strengthen, ones that may not have been there a week ago or two weeks ago.
“But this team hasn’t done much wrong in the last few seasons and my responsibility will be to try and strengthen and sustain what we’ve already got. I’ll endeavour to make those decisions over this pre-season period.”
Hughton was calm and collected in front of the press today and despite the pressures of Premier League management, it is quite obvious that he’s looking forward to the new campaign with excitement rather than trepidation.
“There will always be high expectations because we’re in a very difficult league. There’s always pressure on performances and results but it’s probably no more than a manager puts on himself.
“It’s something that you have to deal with but ultimately all you can do is prepare the team, the tactics and the motivation in the best way that you can.”
And finally, there were a few words on new goalkeeping coach Dave Watson, who was brought to the club from Hughton’s old West Midlands stomping ground this week.
The former Barnsley ‘keeper was of course involved with Roy Hodgson’s Euro 2012 squad only a few weeks ago and he certainly arrives at Carrow Road with an excellent reputation within football circles.
“I worked with Dave over the last season [at Birmingham] and saw the qualities that he has. He worked with some good goalkeepers at Birmingham and you can see the progress that young Jack Butland has made under his work.
“Dave has been involved with different age groups for England and it was wonderful for him, after the season’s work with Birmingham, to be invited along with the seniors [at Euro 2012]. As soon as I had the opportunity to bring him here, it was one I took straight away.”