City boss Bryan Gunn was today confident that his re-built Canary side were coming very nicely to the boil ahead of tomorrow's League One opener against City's East Anglian neighbours.
Or rather, the other ones.
With a virtual clean bill of health for the visit of Colchester United and a sell-out crowd of 25,000 due at Carrow Road, the Canaries could – in theory – set down their marker early against a half-fancied Us outfit.
Installed as second favourites to win the title behind Leeds United, Gunn knows that City need to start as they mean to go on – making Carrow Road a fortress from Game One; picking up points on their travels from Game Two.
“I think they're just right,” said Gunn, speaking at Colney this morning. Not wound too tight, not wound too loose… coiled and ready to roll for the 46 games that lie ahead.
“The whole pre-season programme has been designed around getting them – or as many players as possible – at a peak of fitness for August 8.
“I do have a couple who are a little bit behind the others, but hopefully over the course of the next two weeks they'll be able to catch up through training and some in-house games,” added the Canary chief, with the newly-arrived Stephen Hughes likely to be one of those playing catch-up.
“But in terms of where we are, it's a great place to be,” he said, happy to compare and contrast his good fortune – and hard work, in fairness – with years past.
“I think this time last season there was a number of first choice players in the treatment room who Glenn [Roeder] couldn't utilise for the first game. So I think we're in a situation where we want to be, but at the same time there will be occasions throughout the season where there will be injuries; will be suspensions.
“But now we have a squad where we feel we can move people in and out and not de-strengthen the starting line-up.”
The fact that after all the events of last season – and those before – that Carrow Road will be bursting at the seams for the curtain-raiser was, said Gunn, “incredible”.
The trick now, of course, was to keep them there with the kind of performance and final result on show in last Saturday's 3-2 success over Premiership friendly visitors Wigan Athletic.
“I think the crowd number is going to be the highest from the mid-70s,” he said, with the Us expected to add 1,700 supporters to what promises to be a big and noisy occasion.
“It does put added pressure on the players, but it just shows you that if we can get things right then the fans are there to back us. And I think what they've seen in pre-season and all the positive signs throughout the summer with the new signings, the stability of the club, the new board – it's all set up now, as well.
“So, hopefully, there'll be a chain reaction from that; we'll continue to be positive and those sell-out crowds will continue to come along to Carrow Road to watch us.”
And, ideally, see his rebuilt City start kick-off the new campaign with three, big points. Nine times out of ten, Norwich make all the right noises, but then find themselves left in the blocks. The trick, as every good 400-metre runner knows, is to establish a consistent pace to your running from the outset.
“For any team that wants to achieve anything in any league, you need to have a good start,” said the Canary boss, mindful that he needs to quell the Doubting Thomas' early; particularly with regard to his own managerial position after Norwich's Championship exit last season under his command.
“And I think that if you look at the majority of teams that have either won or come second – or got up through the play-offs – they ahve been there or thereabouts in the top six for the majority of the season. So our ambition is to get off to a good start; continue to be solid in the middle section and finish the season off well.
“But that's a long, long way away – that's 46 games time. But certainly this could be a stepping stone for us; that in the first game of the season we set down a marker which shows our intention.”
To rebuild the walls of Fortress Carrow Road, for one thing. “We need to win the majority of those games [at Carrow Road],” he insisted.
“And, obviously, on our travels we need to pick up as many points as we can to try and compete at the top end.”
He has, of course, two extra bodies to pick this season with seven substitutes allowed on a Football League bench this season. Michael Nelson is likely to start after his concussion; Owain Tudur Jones to partner Matty Gill in central midfield; Chrissy Martin to partner Grant Holt in attack.
The biggest question is whether Jon Otsemobor did enough at right-back against Wigan to deny Michael Spillane a start. All will be revealed come three o'clock tomorrow when the fun and games all begin again.
“Throughout pre-season it's obviously been great to have the extra bodies there, but we can still only use three of those,” said the City chief, as prepares to name his first 18-strong match-day squad for the Us clash.
“But it does give you extra options on the bench; for instance at home, you might look to put an extra striker on; away from home you might look to put a defensive midfielder on. So it does open up options for managers to utilise and we'll hopefully do that throughout the season.”
Neither Dejan Stefanovic nor Darel Russell will feature; Rhoys Wiggins continues to work with the fitness coaches after his summer operation whilst still a Crystal Palace player; Kris Renton has a blister.
And that's pretty much it; otherwise – subject to the final piece of paperwork arriving in time for Goran Maric to be included among the substitutes, Team Gunn is fit and raring to go.
The fun is about to start; gentlemen, start your engines…
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