City new-boy Kyle Naughton has spoken of his delight at his season-long switch to Norfolk after gaining another 30-minute game time in this weekend’s 3-0 friendly win over Coventry City.
Goals from Aaron Wilbraham, Steve Morison and Elliott Bennett completed an excellent weekend work-out for Paul Lambert’s men.
The Canaries now face back-to-back home games against first Real Zaragoza on Wednesday and then Parma next Saturday before kicking off their Premiership campaign away at Wigan Athletic on Saturday, August 13th.
Whether the 22-year-old Naughton starts against the Latics or whether last season’s promotion hero Russell Martin keeps his place at right-back is just one of a whole clutch of questions that – for now – remain unanswered.
Lambert merely threw another curve ball team-wise by using Naughton at left-back for the final half hour as youngster George Francomb took up station on the right. There again, Adam Drury found himself in the centre of defence; just as Martin had at Southend. Make of that what you will.
Lambert will, however, be closing in on his starting XI – no further injuries permitting as James Vaughan and Elliott Ward missed the trip to the Ricoh with their respective knee injuries. Whether Anthony Pilkington will be risked before the Latics clash is another question for the next two, home friendlies to answer.
The former Huddersfield hero was getting closer and closer to a return after dislocating his ankle in the spring. For now, however, he remains just another unknown as Lambert continues to shuffle his pack and assess a myriad of new options.
Friendly was the word on Naughton’s lips as he started to swiftly settle into his new surroundings.
“There’s a lot of good lads here and they’ve made me feel very welcome – I’ve settled in really quickly,” the England Under-21 defender told BBC Radio Norfolk after yesterday’s outing at the Ricoh.
The fact that he was coming into a dressing room still riding a remarkable high after those back-to-back promotions to the Premier League made his job all that much easier, he said.
“If the team spirit is high it’s not that difficult to come into [a new dressing room],” he said. “It’s already got a buzz and you pick up on it straight away.”
Certainly there appeared little doubt that Norfolk was the place to continue his Premiership footballing education under Lambert’s watchful guidance.
“Norwich is the right place for me because they’ve got some good players, but the best thing is that they’re Premier League – and they’ve got a good manager as well. And, hopefully, we can go far together.
“I played against a lot of the lads when I was at Leicester last season and when I started training with them, they were just as good as I thought they’d be.”
Nor was he a one-trick pony; he had left-back on his cv. He also has right-side midfield in his locker, too.
“Obviously I prefer to play right-back, but I have played left-back for other clubs and it’s not a problem if I was asked to play there,” he told Radio Norfolk, like the rest of the Norfolk Nation looking forward to the start of the real thing.
“These pre-season friendlies are good for getting fit and getting sharp, but everyone is waiting for the big thing, really.”
And nor was he taking anything for granted, start-wise.
“I wouldn’t expect to come here and get straight into the team – everyone’s starting from scratch and whoever is performing will get the shirt. And I think everyone is fighting against eachother, to be honest.”
Former Brighton winger Bennett did his hopes no harm with a big assist and the sweetest of goals in the midst of this weekend’s final away friendly. He would have looked to have staked a big claim to that wide right role already. John Ruddy enjoyed the full 90 minutes in goal. After that, it starts to get anyone’s guess as to who has done enough to earn the nod.
In part, of course, it will depend on what horse the manager opts to run for that Wigan course. A lone striker, for example, then opens up an additional midfield space for a Bradley Johnson, a David Fox or an Andrew Crofts.
“We’ve got two more friendlies against two top sides and then all the attention will be on that first game,” said Lambert, as Norwich’s phoney friendly war continues. It will all get deadly serious in 13, short days’ time.
“That’s when it will probably hit them,” added the manager. Did he already have a team in mind, was the question.
“You always have a rough idea,” said Lambert, giving no clue as to what that was. “The work ethic and desire is there in abundance, so it’ll be hard to pick a side. But that’s my job.”