City boss Paul Lambert may still be erring on the side of caution when it comes to unleashing new-boy Anthony Pilkington on an unsuspecting Premier League.
But quiz the fit-again 23-year-old and the one-time Atherton Collieries youngster is raring to go.
“That’s another 40 minutes under my belt and I feel strong,” said the summer signing from Huddersfield, fresh from his second-half outing in this weekend’s 3-0 dress rehearsal win over Parma.
In which he bagged his first assist; working away well on the right-hand by-line before tucking the perfect little ball into the near post for Andrew Surman to bag his second strike of the afternoon four minutes from time.
The likelihood is that the trip to Wigan next weekend will come a mite too soon for Pilkington to make his first Canary start, but there is already enough evidence to suggest that City have bought well. Little surprise that Lee Clark was so reluctant to let his star turn go.
“I’m just going to keep on working hard on the training ground and if I have to wait a couple more weeks then so be it,” said Pilkington.
“It’s up to the Gaffer now. But I feel as if I’ve got some good playing time under my belt and now I just want to push on.”
Pilkington – equally happy to play off either wing or, indeed, up through the middle – fits the Lambert mould to a ‘T’. He’s seen the other side of footballing life with Atherton in the North-West Counties League and arrives in the top flight of English football with a burning desire to do well.
“The Gaffer has said that he wants young, British and hungry players in,” said the new City star, with Ritchie de Laet the only real exception to that rule. But then the Belgian is not exactly a stranger to these shores as he serves his own apprenticeship at Old Trafford.
“But we’re all here to work hard and push in the right direction.”
It’s been a tough five months for the young man since breaking his leg and dislocating his ankle while on Terriers duty back in March. He can, he says, see a big light at the end of the tunnel.
“I’m just relishing being out there and getting my fitness back and playing to the best of my ability. I can’t wait to get 100 per cent fit and show everyone what I can do.”
Dislocated ankles aren’t the pick of the bunch, but Pilkington insists it looked far worse than it was.
“It was a bad injury, but I think it looked worse than what it actually was. Obviously you can have knee injuries that can keep you out for a year – or two years.
“I know James Vaughan has had a problem with his knee and he was out for 14 months,” added Pilkington, with Vaughan’s luckless run with injury side-lining him for several more weeks yet.
“I had a bad injury that was terrible to look at, but it’s only been five months and I don’t feel any reason as to why I should be wary of it. It was just a twisted ankle, really.”
As well as such a confidence of youth, Pilkington also brings a wealth of versatility to Lambert’s team thinking – ideal given the way the manager likes to switch from one formation to the next as and when game circumstances dictate.
He did it again yesterday; David Fox and Bradley Johnson tucking in just in front of the back four with the likes of Pilkington, Surman and Chrissy Martin buzzing off a lone striker. It is, you suspect, the formation that Lambert will revert to if Norwich need to hang in there; to cover up, like a boxer might, if they find themselves on the back foot but in possession of a prized point.
Then, of course, there’s always the wide ‘point’ of City’s famed midfield diamond; or a straight-forward winger role with a flat midfield four.
“At Huddersfield I played wide in a flat four – either on the right or on the left,” he confirmed. “The manager liked me to switch just to keep the defenders guessing. And I like to get forward and attack – that’s my main aim.
“But when I was at Blackburn Rovers as a kid I was a striker, then I went to a full-back – and then moved to a winger when I was in non-league. So I’ve played in a few positions.
“But I’m happy to play anywhere – it’s a great league, it’s a great stadium with great fans and I’m just happy being on the pitch.”
Jim Davies says
Better proof-read your header, Rick! (part, not past)