City skipper Grant Holt has endorsed his manager’s view that all is well on course for a flying start to the Canaries’ return to the Premiership after six, bond-building days and nights away in Germany.
And while the two games and the aggregate 19-0 scoreline might not unduly settle City’s opponents on August 13th, it may prove that events on Saturday evening hold rather more significance when it comes to Norwich’s survival prospects.
Team-building can start on the training ground, but it can also continue behind a microphone – karoke-style.
“We always does this thing when they [new players] have to get up and sing a little bit – it always breaks the ice a little bit,” revealed Norwich’s master of such ceremonies, his own status as club skipper confirmed again by boss Paul Lambert yesterday.
“A lot of them were a little bit nervous, but they all got through it,” said Holt, as a rite of Canary passage became common knowledge.
“When you’re on tour, you’re stuck in a way – you can’t get away after training. So you get to meet the lads, see their characters and get to see what they’re like. It worked well last year and you could see that they were a good bunch of lads.”
Who belted out what under what influence wasn’t mentioned, but it is clear that Lambert has adopted the same philosophy recruitment-wise this summer as that which delivered back-to-back promotions last season.
Young, hungry and mean wrapped up in a fierce determination to do well – each and every player appears to come to the table with that sat large on his ‘cv’.
As ever – maybe 30-year-old Holt and Wes Hoolahan apart – it is hard, for now, to pick out any real ‘star’ to the side. Once again, Lambert and Co will insist that the team is the star, not any one individual in it.
“You can’t change what has got us here,” said Holt. “And it’s a work ethic, really. We’ve all got to pull for each other.
“And the manager is very selective as to who he brings in and the lads that he has brought in fir the criteria that he normally signs players on and it’s fantastic for the club.”
The big word up at Colney yesterday as the club prepared to step up their preparations with tonight’s friendly trip to Crystal Palace was options. Lambert now has the ability to mix and match across the park – be it in terms of either personnel or formations. Even up-front, Lambert has a variety of options to throw at unsuspecting Premiership defenders.
“The manager has brought in some fantastic players,” said Holt, not for once taking his own starting role for granted.
“Steve Morison is a very different forward to me – and again James Vaughan is very different to Jacko [Simeon Jackson] so we have a good balance and now Elliott [Bennett] has been putting some fantastic balls in and what we’ve seen so far of Pilks [Anthony Pilkington] he looks another good acquisition.”
Pilkington’s arrival is slightly on hold first team-wise as he continues to recover from last March’s dislocated ankle. The Canaries were due to be boosted again in the next 24 hours by the expected arrival of Spurs prospect Kyle Naughton on his season-long loan deal.
Whether he will join up with the squad in time to feature in tonight’s trip to Selhurst Park is for Lambert to ascertain. A first appearance at Southend on Thursday night still looks the more likely.
Competition for places was key – that and a depth of squad that can cover all manner of possibilities.
“That’s key,” said Holt. “Even if you look at the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal, even these teams never play the same team twice; they’re chopping it around.
“And with different teams you’ve got to play different formations and bring a different bunch of lads in to play it. All you can do is look to play your best when you play.”
They had, said Holt, already been running through a clutch of formations; working out what worked – and who didn’t. Well aware that on occasion they would have to dig in, dig deep and if needs be, win ugly.
“That’s what pre-season is about – it’s not about the opposition, it’s about trying to do things right,” said the City skipper.
“Getting away and learning. And I’m sure this season the manager will use different formations, different players and different tactics.”
And if that’s what it takes to prove the bookies wrong, so be it.
“A lot of people doubted us last year and said that we were going to be at the bottom of the Championship,” said Holt. “So you’ve got to go in there with the belief that we’re going to do a job.”
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