City boss Peter Grant last night revealed the thought process that went to work in appointing Jason Shackell as Norwich's new captain for the season – and the big part that Adam Drury played in that decision.
Shackell, 23, led the Canaries out at Carrow Road last night against West Ham United – just as he did in the opening pre-season friendly of the summer away at Exeter City.
And while at that stage Grant gave the impression that it was very much a 'Look, see…' operation – Drury would return to skipper the Canaries on their pre-season tour to Holland – so come the first of this week's two dress rehearsals for the new season, so the switch was officially made as the armband passes on.
“Adam came to me last year and spoke to me about giving the captaincy over if I wanted to make someone captain and I've spoken to Adam at length about it,” revealed Grant, clearly not wishing to put Drury's nose out of joint.
The fact that he is now sitting on a new, four-year City deal should help cushion any blow.
“He knows how high I regard him given the contract that he's got for the way that he's played for us – and I think you can see that again in his performance tonight,” said Grant, after watching the Canaries mount a spirited second-half comeback after first-half goals from Jonathan Spector and the returning Dean Ashton put the Premiership visitors in command of the occasion.
In the midst of it all, Drury was his sure and assured self. Passing the captaincy on may, possibly, be a burden lifted. Certainly the long-serving Canary full-back appears to have had a considerable input into this summer's debate.
“Adam's not one of these guys that's going to be vociferous on the pitch; he's not going to be ranting and raving; that's not the way he plays.
“And I just think it'll make Jason grow a little bit. Plus I think that sometimes in the middle of the pitch it is easier to get information across, when you're playing and organising your midfield, organising your full-backs.
“I think sometimes Adam's maybe a bit too detached from the game.”
It would appear that Drury himself thought that Shackell's overall game could benefit from the extra responsibility that comes with captaincy; that this was the next, logical step for a home-grown player that Darren Huckerby has long believed can comfortably perform at Premiership level – provided he steps up to the plate and takes his game up to the next level.
“It was something that me and Adam spoke about before I spoke to Jason. I thought that was important and he was coming to the same conclusion as me – he sees that maybe Jason will become a better player through it. And that's a wonderful gesture on his part because I know what I'd have been like.
“I'd have been mumbling and moaning about it – even though the manager's got to make a decision.”
The ball, of course, is now firmly in Shackell's court. He has to rise to the challenge; there is not so much a gauntlet at his feet, but a captain's armband. Can he take it on and be that centre-half leader of men in the mould of such genuine Canary legends as Duncan Forbes, Dave Watson and Steve Bruce? Or, indeed, Ian Butterworth in that UEFA Cup era?
“As I've said before, I think he has the potential to be a captain of this club – there is no doubt about that,” said Grant.
“He's got the opportunity and now it's up to him to go and lead the team in the proper manner.
“And the most important thing about the captain's job is doing your job properly first. He's got all the attributes to be a top quality player. Plus he's got to lead and understand the full picture – and that's one thing that we think will make him a better player, giving him that responsibility.
“Hopefully, he grabs that with both hands.”
The pace of such changes at Carrow Road this summer has been unrelenting and this week has already proved no exception with the arrival of Darel Russell being accompanied by Jurgen Colin's ?70,000 exit to Ajax and Joe Lewis' loan switch to Morecombe.
All three have almost been over-shadowed by the on-going Youssef Safri saga and it will be fascinating to see what, if any, role the Moroccan playes in Friday night's game against Vitesse Arnhem. If indeed, he is still here.
As for last night's game that featured five of Grant's eight new faces in his starting eleven, it was David Marshall that stole the show with a clutch of wonderful saves as the Hammers – led by the wonderful movement of Bobby Zamora – let rip.
“In the first-half, I thought we were lucking to be only two down,” admitted Grant, as 22-year-old Marshall bought himself about six months grace with his opening night efforts in front of a bumper and pretty buoyant, pre-season crowd.
“And obviously it showed you the quality that David Marshall has – and that's why we fought so long to get him.
“But it was difficult for the players because we never had the full group of players available to us,” said Grant, still with a big card marked 'J Brellier' tucked up his sleeve. There is also a certain D Huckerby to factor into everyone's thinking.
“We knew we had to mix and match and put people in positions that, probably, they hadn't played for a long time, but that's what we had available.
“But more pleased with the second-half. They got to grips with it and understood what we were trying to do.”
Both managers paid tribute to the atmosphere as supporters of both clubs turned out in great numbers and good voice. The players, you sensed, responded with a tempo that did little to reflect the warm-up nature of the contest. One or two challenges meant business.
“It's been a good game for us,” said Hammers chief Alan Curbishley. “And a great crowd – and a great atmosphere for a pre-season friendly.”