‘It’s all gone quiet over there!’ might have been written for this week.
For after surging ahead in the summer transfer stakes with the signing of first James Vaughan and then Steve Morison, the Canaries’ Premiership recruitment campaign appears to have come to something of a stop.
Of course, appearances can be deceptive. Read either the Brighton Evening Argus or the Yorkshire Evening Post of a night and they would both insist that Norwich’s ranks have swollen by at least two more fresh faces over the last seven days with both winger Elliott Bennett and midfield anchor Bradley Johnson reported to have left Brighton and Leeds United respectively for a new life in Norfolk.
As ever, confirmation will come at a time of Norwich’s choosing as opposed to someone else’s making. So, for now, we are left with two definites, two all-very-probables and a whole host of possibles.
If – for now – we work on the basis that both Bennett and Johnson have joined Vaughan and Morison, City’s first four signings of the summer follow an all-too familiar pattern – one that is, in a sense, becoming a trademark of the Paul Lambert management style.
Buy players that ‘buy’ into a strong team ethic and ethos; buy players that are hungry; buy players that have picked themselves up and gone again…
Buy players with a point to prove; buy players coming into their prime. Buy players on the way up; buy players that have become accustomed to winning; don’t buy players on the way down. Buy players that play games.
Don’t buy players that have grown fat and complacent on Premiership-style wages; don’t bring in short-term loans that have no commitment to the Canary cause.
Such rules of thumb can be seen in all four of the above; Vaughan might be the exception in terms of whether or not anyone would deem him upwardly mobile or not.
I suspect his strength is in the character question – shrugging off a clutch of early, serious injuries to rebuild a career that was so rich in 16-year-old promise.
Otherwise, Lambert’s first round of summer transfer dealing has been devoted to those that know the ways of both non-league and the Football League and have – to his eyes – demonstrated enough to be worthy of stepping up the next level. Into the athletic bear-pit of Premiership football.
All of which is highly commendable. The manager is not throwing the baby out with the bath-water in terms of his existing, closely-knit squad.
He is merely giving each and every ‘department’ in his side someone – and something, therefore – more to think about on their return to pre-season training next month.
As he made very clear when unveiling Morison to the Press last week, old reputations count for nothing. It’s all about what you do now, this summer, that matters. Everyone starts with a clean-slate.
Again, in terms of squad-building and that crucial maintenance of a winning, dressing room mentality, you would have to say that the manager is spot on in his thinking. Thus far, no-one’s apple-cart has been unduly rocked.
Competition for places is always a good thing, will be the line that every player will repeat this summer as no-one takes their place for granted.
But I wonder whether Lambert will settle for trusting his own repute to a squad of players that – for all their clear worth – still lacks one, major ingredient. A spot of Premiership nous. Right now, it isn’t big on top flight experience.
Vaughan has some; Leon Barnett has some; Andrew Surman has played a couple of games for Wolves. And, of course, Adam Drury has been round the block once before. But that’s about it.
There isn’t anyone, say, of a Kevin Nolan ilk who might sit in the middle of the park and just let his experience tell on his team-mates.
Nolan’s name is plucked from no-where. In previous years, you could have said a Gary Speed. Or a Rob Lee. It doesn’t even have to be a centre-midfielder. It could be a centre-half.
You just wonder whether Norwich might need to find at least one, older head to give so many younger Football League lions a helping hand when you’re five minutes away from prising a point out of a trip to The Stadium Of Light or St James’ Park.
It’s all about being street-wise and savvy in such situations; that and knowing how to close such games out and return to Norfolk weighed down with a prized away point.
Clearly the Class of 2010-2011 have more idea than most of how to produce big, performances on your travels. But, personally, I’d sleep slightly easier at night if Lambert could deliver at least one proven, Premiership war-horse to Carrow Road before battle was joined in earnest.
And for that, some of the usual rules of transfer engagement might have to change; he will have had a Premiership-style wage packet at his command for a fair while – so does the hunger still burn?
Does he play games? Or are the joints starting to creak? And is he still a team player? Or will he arrive wanting to be the biggest fish in tightly-controlled pond?
Finding someone of proven Premiership experience and class to bolt within that Colney dressing room is, I suspect, one of Lambert’s biggest challenges this summer. Such players – if available – come neither easily nor cheaply.
In many ways, the City boss might have done the easy bit; it might only be now that the really hard work starts.