City new-boy Matt Gilks left a life of training on parks' pitches and washing his own kit far behind him today as the 25-year-old ex-Rochdale keeper became the Canaries' second free transfer arrival of the summer.
Norwich goalkeeping legend Bryan Gunn – now the club's transfer liason officer – was on hand to do the introductions at Carrow Road this morning as the 6ft 2in No1 joined Paul Gallacher, Joe Lewis and Steve Arnold in the club's goalkeeping department.
How long that situation lasts is one of many questions that have yet to be answered with Gunn dropping a big hint that the chase for Bhoys' 22-year-old David Marshall was still on-going. If that is, indeed, the case, then five into two or three places won't go.
For now, however, it was time to welcome Norwich's second new arrival of the summer with fellow Bosman signing Jon Otsemobor likewise due to start work at the Norfolk club on July 1.
“When did I become aware of Norwich's interest? Possibly about four or five weeks ago – just towards the end of the season,” said Gilks, having agreed a two-year deal with the Canaries. Interestingly, he was also aware of Norwich's interest two years ago when then-boss Nigel Worthington pondered grabbing the Spotland keeper as a Robert Green replacement.
“It had been mentioned a couple of years ago but I always put that down to speculation. But I'm delighted that they came back, showed more interest and I'm delighted to be at the football club.”
He did, it seems, feel that now was the ideal to spread his wings after serving a 12-year apprenticeship at the Greater Manchester club.
“I've played 200 games now at Rochdale and I think it is now about time that I moved on and progressed and tried to ply my trade at a higher level. And, fortunately, Norwich have come in and I'm going to get the chance to do that,” said Gilks, determined not to be here to simply make up the goalkeeping numbers. He didn't appear to be keen on playing second fiddle to anyone – if and when Marshall is ever prised out of Glasgow.
“I spoke to the manager as I got off the plane down here and he said that as far as he was concerned I will be on an even-keel with whichever other goalkeeper is here.
“And obviously I'm going to be coming here, working hard – no matter who comes in. Or who is here at the moment.
“I want to play football and, hopefully, that's what I intend to do. You can't beat playing football in the first team. I've done many a game in the reserves – windy Tuesday nights up at Rochdale – and I don't want to be doing that again. So, yes, every opportunity I'm going to take.”
To his credit, Gilks recognised that he still needed to serve out his lower league apprenticeship when the first round of speculation arrived; hence his decision to sign a new, two-year deal at Spotland for then Dale boss, Steve Parkin.
“I was 22, 23 then and I felt that I needed a few more years in that division, getting experience, working down there with the lads and I felt that now was the right time. They offered me another three years at Rochdale and it would have been great. But as regards a career, I want the best out of my career and obviously to come to a club like Norwich from Rochdale is a hell of a step up,” added Gilks, with Hull City and Bolton Wanderers among those reported to be interested in his whereabouts this summer.
On the basis of it taking a thief to catch a thief, Gunn's verdict on his potential long-term successor was worth noting. “We had him watched a number of times,” said the long-time Canary favourite.
“And the sustained reports we had on Matthew last year was that he was an excellent goalkeeper and we made the decision that we needed competition,” said Gunn, dropping the biggest hint that the goalkeeping department was still due another arrival.
“We've obviously got Steve Arnold, Paul Gallacher and Joe Lewis in the jerseys already and we feel that Matthew will add to that – and we're not saying that we've finished our quest on goalkeepers there, but I think Matthew is aware of that situation and was very positive about the whole situation when we spoke to him when he came down to have talks with us.”
As for his qualities as a keeper, he is it seems no shrinking violet.
“I don't think there'll be too much problem stepping up from League Two – he's a very confident lad. He bosses his defence – very much in the way that goalkeepers should.
“And his statistics over the last two seasons have been very impressive. He's played 46 games in both those seasons, so in terms of his fitness levels it's very good and having spoken to his manager, Keith Hill, he's very disappointed to lose him because he finished off the season in Keith's reign as manager – 24 games – with 12 clean sheets. And that's something that shows there's a quality about him.”