City boss Bryan Gunn insisted that it'll be all hard work and very little play this week as the Canaries' pre-season preparations up another gear with their three-game tour to Scotland.
Long gone are the days of staying at the Dunblane Hydro Hotel. This week and the League One new-boys will be using the student halls at the University of St Andrew's as their base for the games against Raith Rovers tomorrow night, St Johnstone on Thursday afternoon and Airdrie on Saturday.
With two more triallists added to the party today in the shape of ex-Leeds star Michael Bridges and one-time Rangers prospect Chris Craig – all on top of Serbian frontman Goran Maric who was floating around the place in Saturday's 7-2 dismissal of Dartford – it all promises to be something of a chop-and-change adventure as all concerned set out to prove a point.
Paul McVeigh has a new Canary contract to earn; a whole raft of first-time pros have the chance to prove their worth to their senior peers; while even some of the club's more established faces like Gary Doherty and Jamie Cureton have to demonstrate their worth all over again as the likes of Michael Nelson and Cody McDonald push for a starting berth come August 8 and kick-off against Colchester United.
Not that that date will concern either Sammy Clingan or Darel Russell. Neither are in Scotland today; nor were they in Dartford on Saturday.
Both clearly view their futures as elsewhere; the newly-arrived Matt Gill and Owain Tudur Jones could yet have the midfield to themselves as Clingan and his agent fall in and out of love with Chris Coleman and that long-mooted move to the Ricoh.
“It won't be settled – it'll be mix and match,” said Gunn, speaking ahead of yesterday's flight north.
“There might be one team that plays on the Tuesday; another team plays on the Thursday and then they all play 45 on the Saturday. So we're all giving them a similar level of time on the pitch to get the fitness levels the same and to show us their ability.”
The addition of Messrs Bridges and Craig will add extra interest to the tour opener against Raith.
Bridges arrives with a decent pedigree behind him even if the 30-year-old's career of late has failed to hit the heights once expected of him when he made that ?5 million switch from Sunderland to Leeds United in 1999.
Recent loan moves from Hull City to Carlisle will at least have given him a taste of lower league life. Craig, by contrast, has yet to taste the kind of Premiership high life that Bridges enjoyed at Elland Road.
The Scottish Under-19 striker was released by the Gers this summer having yet to make a single, senior appearance. Ironically, the one pushing Craig out of the way at Ibrox is a young man hailed as Scotland's own Wayne Rooney – a 17-year-old called John Fleck whose uncle Robert is, of course, well-known in these parts.
Fleck Snr will, by the same token, know exactly what Craig brings to the party; nephew John will have told Gunn's big pal all about him.
“He's a diminuative striker, but has high skill levels – something we've already seen one or two examples of this morning,” the City chief told the club's official site this lunchtime, as his own quest to land the big No9 continues.
With the likes of McVeigh, Cambridge City triallist Scott Neilson and Luke Daley all floating about the place – not to mention one-time Spurs youth product Troy Powell who shone in the 6-0 stroll against Fakenham on Friday night – Gunn has got his little options covered. What he hasn't got is the Big Un; thus far, only Chrissy Martin would fall into that category. Kris Renton at a push.
At the back, however, and Gunn has an abundance of riches to play with – even minus Dejan Stefanovic, whose on-going return from serious knee injury continues at Colney this week.
Nelson's arrival adds one option; as does the blossoming teenage pairing of the Dane, Dario Dumic and the Welsh Under-19 prospect David Stephens. Both will get their chance to impress this week.
“It'll be interesting to see the likes of Dario Dumic playing alongside Gary Doherty and David Stephens playing alongside Michael Nelson – and there might be sometime during the season when that might happen,” said Gunn.
“So it'll be good to work on different partnerships just to see where the young lads are – and seeing them integrate into the first team training sessions has been brilliant. They know that there's an opportunity for them; they've seen Korey Smith get into the team and into the squad at the end of the season.”
The other star of the Fakenham show was the Smith's FA Youth Cup midfield partner, Tom Adeyemi. He, too, is beginning to blossom.
“Tom Adeyemi's been working throughout the summer and he's put on inches of muscle and these guys, these boys are now turning into men,” added Gunn. “So it'll be good to see them against the likes of Raith Rovers, St Johnstone and Airdrie because they'll be in for tough games up there. They won't be easy matches for sure.”
Leave a Reply