City new-boy Leon Barnett today admitted that he was “just happy to be wanted” as the 24-year-old’s footballing education continues with a five-month loan spell in Norfolk.
The one-time Hatters starlet spent much of last season on loan with Coventry as his West Bromwich Albion career stalled under new boss Roberto di Matteo.
This season and he is once more surplus to first team requirements at The Hawthorns; hence his delight at teaming up with a manager that does want him in the building – and, indeed, wanted him in at Colney long before Norwich’s current rash of centre-half injuries struck.
“It is good to have a manager that wants you and expresses himself towards you – I’m just happy to be wanted,” said the athletic 6ft 1in defender, fresh from making his loan switch ahead of tomorrow’s trip to the City Ground, Nottingham.
Having had 20 games with Sky Blues last season and been part of the Baggies Championship outfit in seasons before, it is hardly unknown territory for the one-time Luton Player of the Year.
“I’ve played before with West Brom, and Luton so I know the league well. Hopefully I can use that experience and give good performances,” said Barnett.
He also knows Elliott Ward well from that same spell at The Ricoh; knowledge that should serve him well should the call come for a first-team start.
As should a smart turn of pace; something that clearly influenced Paul Lambert’s thinking as he scoured the land for that much greater defensive cover.
“Hopefully pace is something that I can bring to the side,” said Barnett, of whom much was expected by then Baggies chief Tony Mowbray after splashing £2.5 million of the club’s cash on the Kenilworth Road prospect.
And at 24, he is still on that learning curve; he is not yet the finished article.
Few centre-halves are at that tender age. “Sometimes my pace does get me out of trouble, but I hopefully grow everyday and get more experience. I’m a good header of the ball which I can bring to the team and get the ball down and play as well,” he added.
He has, it appears, kept one eye on Norwich’s progress this term; no surprise given that Lambert had long registered his interest in acquiring his services – if only, initially, on a part-time basis.
“They [Norwich] have not lost in the league except for the Watford game,” said Barnett. “And its now a tough trip to Nottingham Forest – that will be a test for us, but if we can get the three points at the end of the day it will be good.”
Time, he insisted, was still firmly on his side. That the Premier League could yet beckon again if he continued to look and learn.
And, above all, play games. It was, after all, the only way he was ever going to gain in experience – by getting out and playing games.
“I’m still quite young at 24 so that is kind of in the middle. Hopefully I can get games here and still learn at Norwich, and go on to bigger better things later on.”
It wasn’t a hard decision to switch to Norfolk. “When I knew they wanted me in the summer it was good to be wanted.
“I know Norwich is a big club, I have spoken to a few lads who have been here and they said it is a great club.”
One that, ideally, will prove to be a springboard to bigger and better things again after finding himself stuck in the queue under di Matteo.
“It has been hard but that is football it throws these things at you. If you go to a big club like West Brom there is always going to be good players. “I played well in the first two seasons then found it hard the next season after when they bought in players, that is football – it is never easy.”