City midfielder Luke Chadwick admits he has been something of a man on a mission this summer – desperately trying to make up for all last season's lost time.
The fit-again 27-year-old was once again centre stage last night as Canary boss Peter Grant shuffled his pack again and went into battle against FC Zwolle in 4-3-1-2 formation with Chadwick handed the free, floating role off the two strikers.
It was due reward for an excellent pre-season in which Chadwick's movement and craft has consistently caught the eye.
“Am I more impatient than most this summer? Without a doubt,” he said simply. “Obviously I had a terrible time after signing for the club. I've now put that behind me – touch wood – so, hopefully, I can get going. Score a few goals and set a few goals up.”
If there was a bright spot to last night's 2-1 defeat to Zwolle, it came in an opening spell in which the Canaries got themselves onto the front foot and played by far the sharper football. Indeed, it took them just eight minutes to put that morning's training session into practice as Jamie Cureton dropped deep, Chadwick drove forward down the inside right channel and waited for the City striker to deliver the killer pass.
That done, it was then a question of the one-time Manchester United trainee looking up, spotting an unmarked David Strihavka and rolling the perfect low cross onto his left foot for the Czech striker to bank his first goal in City colours.
“It was a nice goal – we've been working on that in training a lot; the midfielders moving; Curo's (Cureton) come short and I've spun in behind – and it worked well. And it was nice for David to get his goal,” said Chadwick, giving Strihavka his own vote of confidence.
“I think everyone wanted him to get a goal tonight – and I think he wanted one himself. He's working really hard and he looks a really good player, but it's great for him to get off the mark and I'm sure that's going to be the first of many.”
A second last night would have been handy. Instead, Zwolle made the most of some big, yawning spaces in the final third to twice punish City – once on the stroke of half-time with an all-too easy roll home and once again after the break, albeit this time with a thumping 25-yard finish that Matt Gilks, on his own Norwich debut, could do very little about.
“It was a tough game,” admitted Chadwick. “They were quite a good team. I was playing behind the strikers and their midfield was dropping deep as European teams do, so it was a bit tricky.
“But the first 20, 25 minutes we played it really well. Then I thought we dropped a bit deep and in the end it was obviously a disappointing result. They play nice football; it was a good work-out. But it's a completely different game to what you're going to get in the Championship.”
As for his own, individual form, after finding himself impaled on a Portman Road advertising hoarding little more than 30 minutes into his City debut, Chadwick is taking nothing for granted.
“I've done alright; got a couple of goals; set a few goals up. So, hopefully, I can force my way into the team and get going in the league games,” he said. Looking around, he can see competition for places – whatever role may be assigned to him.
“It's going to be a big squad this year so everyone's got to work as hard as they can otherwise you're not going to have a place in the manager's starting eleven.”
Result apart, the other sour note to last night's proceedings was provided by an injury to on-loan Chelsea youngster Jimmy Smith who took a nasty whack on the calf in the game's dying minutes. Chadwick didn't bear the offending Zwolle player any ill-will – it was, it seems, just one of those…
“He's a really sharp player Jimmy and the lad hasn't done it intentionally – he's gone to kick the ball, Jimmy's nicked it in behind and he's got a big kick on his calf,” said Chadwick, speaking straight after last night's game.
“He's in a lot of pain now, but hopefully those injuries settle down pretty quickly and we're all really hopeful that it's not too serious.”
With the Canaries returning home to Norfolk tomorrow, all eyes now fix on Tuesday night's home clash with West Ham United – former employers of both Chadwick and Grant. It should be quite a night for home-comings with Dean Ashton, Robert Green and Craig Bellamy all heading back to pastures old.
“I think that's the first real, proper game for us,” said Chadwick. “We've all worked on our fitness; we've all played three or four games now and we're ready for West Ham – a really big game against a really good team. I'm sure it'll be a great challenge for us.”