City boss Paul Lambert has completed the double signing of Oli Johnson and Zak Whitbread, fresh after signalling his intention to stay on in Norfolk.
As per usual, the fee was undisclosed but the pair have signed up to a two-and-a-half year tour of duty as the Canaries look to bolster their squad for the promotion push, with the centre of defence and attack the problem areas. Until now.
The arrival of 22-year-old Stockport striker Johnson was expected at this afternoon’s 2.30 press conference, but the speed of the Whitbread transfer comes as a little bit of a surprise – despite Lambert hinting that the Millwall man could be City-bound.
The Wakefield-born forward started his career in the ninth tier with Nostell Miners Welfare, before impressing in a trial with the Hatters.
He joined the North West outfit in October 2008, signing a seven month contract until the end of the season.
Johnson became an instant favourite at County, scoring four goals in his first four starts at Edgeley Park and in May last year, the Daily Mirror linked the 22-year-old with a move to Premier League side Fulham.
Canary fans hoping for a goal machine may be disappointed though, with Johnson only finding the net once this season, despite making 19 appearances.
USA-born Whitbread has good pedigree having come through the ranks at Liverpool but the 25-year-old really made his name at the New Den.
After signing a three-year contract with the Lions in June 2006, he was a regular feature in the team’s starting line-up, starting 18 games for his new club in the 2006-07 season, before injuring himself in September 2006.
Over the course of the last season, Whitbread started 39 games for the Londoners, including the play-off final defeat to Scunthorpe at Wembley.
2009-10 hasn’t been as fruitful for Whitbread, having yet to kick a ball in anger after undergoing a hip operation in the summer.
His departure was always on the cards though after admitting he was unlikely to sign a new Lions deal when the current one expires next summer.
Championship sides Swansea and Peterborough have long been linked with the 6ft 4 defender. But Lambert has now got his man. And coupled with the addition of Johnson, it’s been a good day’s work.
“Oli is a young unknown quantity but he’ll give defenders a real fright,” he told the club’s official site.
“He scored six goals in his first nine starts for Stockport County. He’s not long out of non league and he’s got quick feet, is quick and strong and hopefully he’ll do well for us.
“We needed centre-half and striker cover and Zak is someone I’ve been after for a while and is an experienced defender.
“He has always been my first choice to bring in and I’m delighted to be able to sign him from Millwall.”
And for Whitbread, the feeling was clearly mutual.
“I’m delighted to have joined the club, which matches the ambitions of myself. Having spoken to the manager it is clear the club is only going in one direction and I’m looking forward to being a part of that.
“Norwich is a massive club. Growing up they were one of the top clubs in the country and they’ve got a great tradition and a great ground – which stills sells out 25,000 every week.
“It’s a massive reason to come. Unfortunately I didn’t get to play at Carrow Road last month when Millwall played here but all the lads I spoke to said it was buzzing and was a great occasion and I can’t wait to play here.”
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