City midfielder Owain Tudur Jones was oh-so ready to rumble at Colney this morning.
Tomorrow afternoon and the 24-year-old Welsh international midfielder steps out in front of 25,000 supporters as the Canaries throw themselves into League One battle.
And as Tudur Jones looks around him; looks into the eyes of the squad that Canary boss Bryan Gunn has gathered about him for the 46-game assault course ahead, so the belief and the conviction grows this could be a very good year.
?This is what we've been waiting for for the last month to six weeks,? said Tudur Jones, now apparently coming with a ?250,000 price tag attached.
?Ever since I signed for the club, really. All eyes have been on the fixture list. And lucky enough we get cracking tomorrow with a really good game.
?It's a sort of a derby game; I'm sure the stadium will be full; there'll be plenty of noise and, hopefully, we can deliver the goods. It's a day that we're all looking forward to.?
What will be fascinating to watch is just how the clutch of 'solid' citizens that Gunn has gathered about him cope with that kind of stage; League One football will be nothing new to Tudur Jones, to Matty Gill, to Grant Holt or Michael Nelson.
What will be new, however, is the stage; that and the expectation that comes with 24,000 Canary punters. Can they still perform under that kind of scrutiny? Given the expectation that has followed Tudur Jones around from almost his teenage years, there is an element of now or never to this moment in his career.
The stage is set. Now dominate it.
?That's only a good thing,? said Tudur Jones, as the weight of expectation hoved into view.
?It's certainly something that will drive this team and this squad forward. And I wouldn't have it any other way really. Who wouldn't want to play in front of that many people??
One or two more seasoned City watchers could hand Tudur Jones a list as long of his arm of players that shrunk on the big stage; particularly when the chips were down; when people had to turn up and deliver.
All too often, that's when they disappear – and leave the proud Norfolk club facing life in the third tier of English football for the first time in the better part of 50 years.
The fact that the bookies have installed Norwich as second favourites to win the league this season cuts no ice.
?There's absolutely no guarantees in this league,? he stressed.
?And that's the same as the Championship; the same as League Two. It's not like the Premiership where you can put a lot of money on who the top four are going to be. It's very different in these leagues.
?There's always a couple of teams that pop up out of nowhere and make a push for promotion, but certainly we're going to be one of the favourites going in – and that's a tag we're going to have to live up to.?
The fact that Norwich have grown – almost to a man – some two or three inches taller over the course of the summer is clearly going to help. In theory, no-one is going to push them over.
?I think what we've got now in this squad is a bit of both,? said Tudur Jones, quizzed as to the new-look physical edge to the Canaries.
?We've got a physically strong team – some big lads,? said the six-foot two-inch midfielder.
?But they can play as well – and that's important. I think there are going to be times to win games that we're going to have to play some football; other times where we're going to have to dig deep and defend strongly as a team to win games.
?And I think we've got both here now.?
Individually, of course, this is also a big season for Tudur Jones. That serious knee injury is now a distant memory; two years that he could have done without, but now – fortified by that loan spell at Swindon last season – he appears intent on showing just what all that earlier fuss was about. This is his time.
?I hope so,? he said. ?But again, there's no guarantees.
?It's been difficult. Last season was fine; I was fit and ready, but just couldn't quite get into the side at Swansea.
?But it's all made me a stronger person; a stronger player. It makes you appreciate things a lot more.?
He is, he says, in the best shape of his footballing life. Be it mentally or physically.
?I do, actually. I feel really good. It's just a case of putting that into action on match days and the season. I've really enjoyed this pre-season; the games; playing at Carrow Road and, hopefully, we can carry that on tomorrow.?
There are, of course, no guarantees that he'll start. Central midfield is kind of crowded – even minus the departing Darel Russell.
?We've got myself, Gilly (Matty Gill), Stephen Hughes and Tom Adeyemi – there's four lads there that will push each other throughout the season. And if you're off the boil for a couple of weeks, there's somebody there that can take your place and keep you out of the side for a long while.
?So you've got to be bang on it, week in, week out.?
Leave a Reply