So far this summer, we haven’t been given any clues as to who Paul Lambert will select as his first choice XI come August 6 for that opener against Watford.
But with tomorrow’s first showpiece friendly on the horizon with Newcastle United coming to town, you would expect the City boss to start testing out his preferred team, injuries permitting.
With seven additions to the squad this summer, the Scot has plenty of options and the Canaries should certainly be capable of holding their own on their return to the Championship.
And here is my starting line-up, assuming everyone is fit, for that Carrow Road clash with Malky Mackay’s Hornets in front of the Sky Sports cameras.
Goalkeeper – John Ruddy. No surprises here and the Canary faithful will be pinning their hopes on the St Ives-born 23-year-old this year. They’ve been spoilt of late, with Fraser Forster outstanding in League One last season, and Ruddy knows that should he not perform, Declan Rudd and Jed Steer will be breathing down his neck.
Right-back – Russell Martin. The former Peterborough captain was steady, if not spectacular, after his arrival halfway through 2009/10 but doubts remain whether he can shine in the second tier. He is a reliable performer, however, and should start the season as first choice.
Centre-back – Elliott Ward. The former West Ham man has clearly been brought to the club to play plenty of games and his experience of the Championship could be crucial. He can also take a mean penalty and could prove to be one of Lambert’s best signings of the summer.
Centre-back – Zak Whitbread. The City boss is a big fan of the USA-born Scouser and his cultured style could suit this level. He has got that extra bit of pace as well and that is why he edges out Michael Nelson and Jens Berthel Askou, just.
Left-back – Adam Drury. This decision was a no brainer after the City stalwart’s excellent campaign last time out, although former Rangers man Steve Smith will offer decent competition.
Centre-midfield – Andrew Crofts. I haven’t seen much of the Welsh international to be fair. But he comes highly recommended from all quarters and offers midfield grit and tidy passing skills in equal measure.
Centre-midfield – Stephen Hughes. Although Korey Smith can count himself unlucky to miss out, Hughes just has to play; it’s as simple as that. He wasn’t a first-team regular last season but I believe his movement and classy range of passing will suit the Championship. The Scotland international can put his foot in as well.
Centre-midfield – Andrew Surman. Despite his lack of starts in the Premier League with Wolves, there was a reason why they shelled out £1.2 million for him a year ago and his cultured left-foot can do some real damage, especially with Grant Holt on the end of his crosses.
‘In the hole’ – Wes Hoolahan. Give Lambert all the credit in the world, he created this position for the talented Dubliner and it is here where he should remain. Hoolahan will benefit from more space this year and the man is a class act. Watch out Championship defenders.
Striker – Simeon Jackson. The Canary chief hasn’t paid around half a million for the Canadian striker to sit on the bench, and I fully expect Jackson to start the season up top. He has that extra bit of pace that was possibly lacking in League One last year, and the former Gills man certainly knows where the goal is.
Striker – Grant Holt. The 30-goal skipper is one of the first names on the City teamsheet and I would be astonished if he doesn’t get 15-goals plus, despite some people questioning his prowess at this level.
So, pick the bones out of that if you wish; no doubt many people will be having the same discussion in pubs up and down the county over the coming weeks.
But one thing is for sure, with the likes of Smith (K and S), Chrissy Martin, David Fox, Nelson, Askou, Oli Johnson, Simon Lappin and Anthony McNamee in reserve, the Canaries should be just fine.