City No2 Ian Butterworth today laid out his own thoughts on what it takes to succeed in the lower leagues of English football.
And after the better part of a decade pounding that particular, unforgiving beat, he at least can bring that experience to bear on next season's League One proceedings – not to mention the small matter of this summer's transfer policy.
For the players that City boss Bryan Gunn ear-marks for the Class of 09-10 will have to be as strong in mind as they are in body, says Butterworth.
“It's a demanding league where there's some long journeys, new grounds – and for the players it's a change of mentality,” he warned, after learning all he needs to know about life down below with Darlington, Bristol Rovers, Cardiff City and Hartlepool before last January's Carrow Road home-coming.
“It's not playing in front of 30,000-odd at Pride Park, it's the 3,500 at Yeovils, the Hartlepools and the Stockports – and we'll have to get used to that,” he added. “Yes, it's a demanding league, but we've got to make sure that we get the right players to cope with that.”
Given the number of likely exits this summer – David Marshall having long gone, Lee Croft having made his farewell feelings plain and everyone just waiting for the phone to ring when it comes to Messrs Clingan and Hoolahan – so Gunn and Co will be handed all-but a clean slate team-wise cme August 8.
Indeed, it would be an interesting bet now as to how many of 'The Valley XI' make it to the start of Norwich's new life in the third tier of English football. Three would be my best guess – Cody McDonald, Korey Smith and Gary Doherty.
Darel Russell might be an outside bet for a fourth.
Otherwise, the Canary boss and his No2 have a blank piece of paper to work from. Characters, says Butterworth, is the No1 requirement; thereafter, it's the simple things – strikers that score goals and defenders that defend. Something that the club has struggled to find of late.
“What's it going to take? It's going to take hard work, commitment, passion – which you need in every league – but it's in abundance in that league,” said the 45-year-old City assistant. “But at the end of the day you still have to have goal-scorers to score goals; you still need to keep it tight at the back.”
For many a club, a trip to Carrow Road will be their 'cup final'; a date to look forward to in their diary. That, you sense, may have played a big part in the on-going story of Leeds United's League One downfall – that everyone upped their game by 10% for the trip to Yorkshire.
“We will be regarded as a big club – and that might help us attract one or two players,” said Butterworth, with the question mark still lingering over whether the club will be able to pay the 'big club' wages that an Alan Lee might still demand. Even in League One.
“But on the flip side of that everyone will be wanting to beat you,” added Butterworth. “And we've seen that before – Leeds haven't come straight back up.”
He was, however, clearly delighted by the chance of an extended tour of duty – even if the re-appointment of Gunn and his No2 had not met with universal approval. The pair will, for some, need to hit the ground running come August 8.
By when City will be very much a team of their own design rather than of someone else's making.
“This is a chance for Bryan and I to build our own side – one that is able to compete in League One,” he said. “That's the key to it – and, hopefully, get the right players in that want to play football for Norwich.”
Can they play their way out of this division? Or is it all brute strength; a simple slog through the trenches?
“Certain teams are more physical than those in the Championship – certain teams play a direct style; certain teams pass it,” said Butterworth, repeating the need to get the basics in place. People that score goals; people that defend.
“You're going to come up against the same hurdles as a Championship club. But, at the end of the day, you still need your goalscorers to score you goals – and you still need to be tight at the back.
“But you can play football as well – obviously you can. I think Crewe did it a few years back; there's been or two teams that can play,” he said, with Swansea City being the classic of that breed.
It might, however, still be a case of needing Beauty and Beast to be on show; that Norwich can win ugly playing the beautiful game.
“The main thing is that we'll have to mix it up a little bit. But at the end of the day we've got to make sure that we get the right type of players that want to play for the club – that want to show the right type of enthusiasm and hunger for the fans that we've got.”
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