Bryan Gunn won't be wearing a mask, but he must become the loan arranger ? and pronto!
Gunny played a key role in City's summer purchases, and he'll have to get busy again now helping to set up loan deals to get more players in, because the clear message from the first month of the season is that Norwich are still beset by familiar frailties and flaws.
That assessment is deeply depressing, because the wholesale change of personnel in the summer filled us all with hope.
Even that professional misery Richard Balls suddenly became an optimist! What a hoot to see one of his Evening News columns headlined: “Why all the doom and gloom from City fans?”
But then, having spent so long heaping ordure on Nigel Worthington, he has to maintain that a change has brought a big improvement. Sadly, the evidence so far is that different does not necessarily mean better.
Yes, City have nine new faces in their squad but I watched the Carling Cup game at Rochdale through my fingers. The second worst team in the Football League should have beaten us.
They marmalised us in the first-half, missed twice from almost under the bar at the death and finally only succumbed in a penalty shoot-out. I sought out some home fans to tell them I thought their team had been robbed.
Gary Doherty and our new skipper, Jason Shackell, struggled woefully at centre-back but it was not entirely their fault. They were left alarmingly exposed by the midfield's inability to keep possession ? and that was, in part at least, because of the Huckerby conundrum.
What do we do with Darren, especially away from home? It is a puzzle which was apparent even as City won the League title in 2004. It is a problem that remains unsolved.
If you play him on the left of a midfield four, he seldom tracks back. I don't criticise him for that. It's not what he's good at. In fact, he's a liability when he tries to tackle, because he usually fouls his opponent.
And, just as it was arrant folly when England used to omit Glenn Hoddle because he didn't work hard enough, so you cannot drop Hucks because he doesn't help out his left-back. Hucks does so much damage going forward, that you have to excuse him defensive duties.
But that means City end up playing with a midfield three, and at Rochdale the trio were spread so thinly across the entire width of the pitch that they were ineffective individually and a shambles collectively.
If you play Hucks as one of two attackers, so that you can have a full complement of four midfielders behind him, then he wanders out to the left, where he is happiest and most potent.
That leaves the other striker unable to operate as a target-man. If the other striker tries to hold the ball up, or if he tries to flick it on, he needs someone near him, and Huckerby isn't there.
And, anyway, we've got to find room for Jamie Cureton, and he cannot possibly play as a target-man alongside Hucks. He needs to play alongside one himself.
The solution I suspect Peter Grant favours, judging by some of the pre-season games, is to play Hucks just behind two strikers (Cureton and one other) at the top point of a midfield diamond. Two midfielders would play behind him with a third in a holding role just in front of the defence.
But that makes City very narrow. And Cureton thrives on fiercely struck, low crosses. So we need some width.
Jon Otsemobor, one of this season's successes, can gallop forward from right back, but he looks best when he can swap passes with a natural winger, preferably Lee Croft, rather than become that winger himself on a part-time basis.
So none of the possible formations looks quite right.
Meanwhile, the Championship of 2007-08 is packed full of clubs who used to be in the Premiership and who think they have a right to go back. Everybody is capable of beating anybody else. The trick will be doing it often enough to gain confidence and momentum.
And if Norwich are to be one of the clubs performing that trick, then Gunny needs to get his contacts book out and start ringing clubs with players who might reinforce City's spine. It is at centre-back, central midfield and at centre-forward that Norwich look no better than adequate.
Shameless plug. When you next scoff at what an easy life it must be for writers, I beg you to consider the circumstances in which I ghost-wrote Graham Poll's autobiography, “Seeing Red”.
Harper Collins (the publishers) said I had six weeks to write 100,000 words. I told them I didn't know 100,000 words, and so would have to use some more than once. They didn't laugh.
And I wasn't laughing when, during those six weeks, my back went into spasm and the pain kept throwing me to the floor, where I lay, helpless.
Next, the bloke arrived to dig up my floor and build a new kitchen. The contract with him had been signed before I agreed the book deal but the timing of the building work was terrible.
So, in the circs, I am pretty chuffed with “Seeing Red” ? and both Pollie and I are thrilled that it is outselling the Neil Warnock book.
I cannot pretend there is any particular Norwich relevance about “Seeing Red”, but Poll's story is extraordinary ? a very human tale about ambition, humiliation and coming to terms with failure. So, come to think of it, there is a Norwich relevance!
Leave a Reply