Ordinarily, the summer months are something of a nightmare for the editor of this website.
Scratching around for credible links and rumours that can be fleshed out to 800 words tends to be my modus operandi for any given June, the alternative being to take the Adrian Durham route and pen something deliberately controversial – like the idea of moving out of Carrow Road (don’t worry, I won’t be returning there any time soon).
This summer’s different though. So much so we’re entering waters that for us are largely uncharted. And it’s exciting.
Naturally it’s the steady stream of new faces that takes centre stage on the back pages, web pages and social media but there’s been so much more, not least the managing director of a small team to the south oddly opting to take a random pot shot at our new structure.
Perhaps Mr Milne was just being a Durham-like little tinker and looking for a reaction. So I’ll give him one…
For those who are unaware, Ipswich have a managing director called Ian Milne. He’s been there for a while and appears to be the link between the reclusive Marcus Evans and the rest of the club.
In July 2014 he told the East Anglian: “I’m convinced that a good manager with a spirited and balanced squad can beat those ones with money. Burnley did it last season [2013/14] and I see a lot of similarities here with what they did.”
As it transpired the similarities between Ipswich and Burnely were (and still are) very few and far between.
On Monday of this week he told the same paper: “They [Norwich] have gone for a sporting director and a head coach, but I must admit I think there can only be one captain of the ship – the manager…… but we believe in what we are doing here. We think it works well and it’s proven to have worked well in the not too distant past.”
I’ll desist from the hatchet job I originally intended (Mr Milne has made a good job of that without any help), other to perhaps question his use of the phrase ‘worked well’ and suggest, if he’s not done so already, that he dines out with Messrs Wilkins and Brazil in the Dinosaur Club.
More relevant to the 21st century were two new faces that popped up at Carrow Road in the week, one familiar, the other the complete antithesis.
Angus Gunn – formerly of our academy and son of Bryan – was a name that has done the rounds since the end of last season but the cynic in me marked it down as the obvious need for a loan move for the player and his equally obvious links to Norwich being just thrown together to make a rumour.
But I was wrong, and on June 26 Angus will be back on familiar turf, ready to embark on his first full season in a first-team jersey. It’s difficult to see what’s not to like:
– England Under-21 keeper ✔
– Highly rated at Man City ✔
– A ‘big unit’ ✔
– Regarded by Webber as better than McGovern, Rudd and Matthews ✔
That he’s the son of Gunny makes it a nice story for us who write about the club but it’s an irrelevance in the overall scheme of things. He’s a good, young keeper in the mould of one Fraser Forster – and that worked out quite well.
And it’s a signing that has echoes of Stuart Webber’s explanation of Huddersfield’s business last summer: “We signed a better keeper, we signed two better centre-backs…”.
The second new face of the week, the third new signing of the summer, was Bosnian midfielder Mario Vrančić who is set to sign a three-year deal. And this one did need a bit of googling.
At 28 years of age Vrančić is outside of the young category but, as tends to be the wont of players from the Balkans, he’ll arrive with a steely resolve and a determination to succeed. I’m not expecting to be using ‘lily-livered’ this season, least of all in relation to Master Vrančić.
Having been one of the few to excel in Darmstadt’s poor Bundesliga season – they lost 23 out of 34 games – he has been picked six times to play for Bosnia and Herzegovina and is described by Daniel Farke, on whose radar he’s been for a while, as “an intelligent player and technically very good”.
He added [on the club’s official website]: “He has a brilliant left foot and is very good with set-pieces. He’s able to assist and able to score.”
All of which sounds great, even if it does confirm that there are Graham Dorrans and Jonny Howson shaped holes that need filling in the engine room of the City midfield.
In terms of the much discussed central defensive vacancies, Arsenal’s 19-year old Polish centre-back Krystian Bielik has suggested himself that Norwich will be his home next season and is one that certainly fits the Farke/Webber mould. The EDP’s Michael Bailey too has suggested this one’s in the offing along with another so far un-named defender.
So, interesting times and all occurring in the sleepy summer weeks when we’ve previously been told that little business is done. In truth however it’s always tended to be a little easier to get your shopping done early when you’re in Lidl – it was when wandering the aisles of Waitrose that we found the going tough.
Off the field, the club said goodbye this week to Alan Irvine, who confessed to having had his managerial appetite re-whetted thanks to his ten games in charge at the end of the season. He did a fine job in difficult circumstances and in another era would have done enough to earn himself a crack at the gig on a full-time basis.
Interestingly, Dean Kiely and Frankie McAvoy both look set to stay put, albeit in a slightly different role for the latter, both no doubt being sensibly retained for the sake of offering some continuity and Championship nous.
What is clear however is that on June 26, Colney will have a very different look and feel, and it’s unquestionably generated a feeling of excitement over what’s around the corner – even among the most cynical of us.
But equally it is worth noting that it’s generally takes times to mould and bed in an almost new team, which is what this is starting to look like. And also worthy of note is that actually this could all go wrong.
So many unknowns, untried’s and untested’s make for a nervy but exciting cocktail. It could go wrong but equally it could go spectacularly right, and that’s what sets this feeling apart from that which we feel most summers.
To have gone down the same route – the one advocated by Mr Milne – would’ve been the easy, safe option but, in my view, would’ve limited us in terms of how much could be achieved. And it would’ve limited the levels of excitement.
Right now we’re on a precipice. Of something good or not-so-good will only be revealed over the next eleven months. But as things stand it feels like it could be fun.