And so the die is cast…
Paul Lambert’s assault on Premiership survival will be led, effectively, by the Class of 2010-2011. For help, they will look to a clutch of players that follow the Lambert model to a ‘T’.
Young, hungry and ambitious, it remains a telling question to ask of a Carrow Road squad: ‘So, just who is the star of the team?’
The answer – to, no doubt, quote some US management hand-book – is no-one; the team is the star. There is, after all, no ‘i’ in the word team-work.
And nor, despite the talk of a return for Henri Lansbury, is there much hint of Lambert seeking out any such star before the Canaries kick off their Premier League campaign away at Wigan Athletic on August 13th.
The word after yesterday’s 7-0 stroll against Gorleston was that the manager was happy with his lot – and that this week’s pre-season trip to Germany would offer a perfect opportunity for the six new faces to be themselves comfortably into last season’s dressing room ahead of next month’s big kick-off.
“I don’t think you ever stop looking,” the City chief told the Press afterwards. “And I think I said that the other day, that we had to try and keep improving but the squad I’ve got at the minute I’m delighted with.”
Six, for now, was a good number; a seventh signing for the summer would await on events.
“Not at the minute,” was the manager’s response, quizzed as to whether No7 was hoving into view.
“We’re still looking at different avenues we can try and explore, but the squad at the minute I’m delighted with.”
It is an appealing strategy – to let work-rate, hunger and sheer team ethic drive the Canaries on to new heights following their back-to-back promotions under Lambert’s watch.
It would be extraordinary to see anyone of the ilk of a Joey Barton be dropped into the midst of what he has already got – the alchemy would be all wrong; the personal chemistry between manager, players and their skipper would take a big, big hit should a serious Premiership ‘personality’ be now dropped into the heart of that carefully-nurtured dressing room.
Essentially, what you see now is – bar one last tweak – what you’ll get through till January. At which point, the manager re-groups, re-assesses and re-decides whether or not an older Premiership head might be handy to see him across the survival line.
Or else – in an ideal world – if it ain’t that bust, he has little or no need to go out and fix it. He ust bolts in one or two more of the same; keeps everyone on their toes thataway.
Having spent the better part of my adult working life hanging round pre-season friendlies and summer tours, trying to decide what it all ‘means’ for the season ahead, I’ve long ago given up sifting through the tea leaves of whatever transpired away at Gorleston one summer’s afternoon.
No-one got injured. That’s one conclusion to be drawn. And that Lambert is being fair to all three of his possible strike pairings – Messrs Martin, Holt, Wilbraham, Vaughan, Jackson and Morison all got their 30 minutes apiece. Spot the clean slate at work.
The one name – from a distance – that caught my eye was Tom Adeyemi. And a comment that he had ‘filled out’ since last someone saw him.
That, for me, is interesting. Particularly when you come to this Premiership party with a six-foot one-inch athlete’s frame and an Oxbridge-standard brain. Now, of course, all hardened by 34 games last season in the rough and tumble Football League world of Bradford City under the knowing eye of former England Under-21 boss Peter Taylor.
That – on paper – all makes for quite an interesting combination; natural and blossoming athleticism matched to a natural, academic intelligence that has now been through a football finishing school.
Nor – unless his game has changed radically in those nine months at Valley Parade – do Norwich currently possess one of his midfield-ilk.
Andrew Crofts if the closest, but – for me – Adeyemi offers the same kind of box-to-box power and athleticism that a Damien Francis once brought to the table.
And at a now ‘filled out’ 6ft 1in, the one-time Norwich School pupil has the perfect frame for a modern day footballer.
You can, as ever, read far too much into Lambert’s words and deeds.
Who and what he is talking about when he says that some of the ‘younger ones’ won’t be going out on loan. Why certain players start the very first game of pre-season. Why, for now, he won’t be looking to throw himself back into the summer transfer fray.
Why he is happy to take stock as the players prepare to properly ‘bond’ in some German bier keller next week.
But Adeyemi’s return to the fold this summer is interesting – not least for the fact that a former Radio Norfolk commentator always insisted that the kid ‘had the lot’ having tutored him as an Academy youngster.
We shall see. Many a Norfolk youngster has blossomed in the summer only to fade with the onset of a demanding winter.
But one to keep your eye on as a currently star-less Canary squad prepare to take on the might of the English Premier League.