City boss Paul Lambert this morning confirmed his complete faith in young keeper Declan Rudd as another big, big game in Norwich’s Premier League diary hoved into view.
Pointless West Bromwich Albion and the Sky TV cameras roll into the city this Sunday lunch-time to be greeted by a 20-year-old Canary keeper making his first Premiership start.
John Ruddy’s one-match ban following his dismissal in the 3-1 defeat at Chelsea found Lambert faced with a tricky decision – to give the highly-rated Academy product his big moment in the spotlight or to use the last remaining days of the summer transfer window to hastily add a more experienced No1 to his Premiership pack.
After a certain amount of thought and discussion, the Scot has gone with the promise of youth; 17-year-old Academy keeper Remi Matthews is likely to find himself on the bench as Lambert and Co look to add to West Brom’s early-season woes.
“I’ve got no fear about Declan playing – no fear,” said the City chief, speaking to the Press at Colney this morning ahead of Sunday’s second home clash of the season.
“He’s never let himself or me down, so I haven’t got any problem [with him playing].”
Dipping another toe into the summer transfer water had been discussed, but given it was just for the one game the decision was made to give the young man his chance. Fresh from his England Under-21 call-up, confidence should not be in short supply.
The other decision was whether or not to recall Jed Steer from his loan spell at Yeovil; again, it was a path Lambert opted not to wander down.
Keep the kid where he is; playing games; learning his trade. Do not haul him home just to sit on the bench for one game.
“We spoke about it,” said the Canary chief. “But Jed’s at Yeovil and doing really well. And for his development he needs to play regular games as well, so we’ve made the decision – and John’s only going to be away for one game.
“The squad will be decided tomorrow,” he added. “And whatever decision I make, I’ll stand by it.”
Decisions abound across the squad – whether he returns to the flat-four midfield that he fielded against Stoke City ahead of the famed diamond; whether Steve Morison’s goal-scoring heroics with Wales merits a start ahead of, say, a Chrissy Martin; whether Andrew Crofts needs to have a Bradley Johnson at his side instead of a David Fox.
The list is pretty endless. Bar at centre-half where Ritchie de Laet and Leon Barnett pick themselves. Zak Whitbread is making good progress with the hamstring strain he picked up at Stamford Bridge; of greater concern is the longer term knees injuries blighting both new arrival Daniel Ayala and Elliott Ward.
The latter’s progress has, the manager admitted, been slower than they hoped.
“Zak’s doing OK at the minute,” Lambert revealed. “And we need him back. We’ve got Daniel Ayala out and Wardy out as well.
“And he’s [Ward] still a wee bit away. It’s taken longer than we thought it would which is bit of a blow for us because he was a big player for us last year – and we’ve not had him.”
The fact that both Morison and Crofts did so well in their respective games for Wales over the last week was, however, all good news – the fact that both came through unscathed added to the manager’s delight.
Morison – if selected – should go into Baggies’ battle with his confidence sky-high after giving England skipper John Terry something to think about at Wembley on Tuesday night.
“I don’t think Morison lacks confidence anyway – and I thought Crofty was excellent, I really did. But as long as they come back fit, I’ll be happy,” said Lambert.
The other piece of good news injury-wise was the update on one-time Everton starlet James Vaughan. Knee injury has ruled him out of making his first, competitive appearance for his new employers since that summer switch.
That, however, could be about to change with the striker close to his first squad call up.
“James has done really great,” said Lambert. “He’s looking sharp at the minute in training and I’ll decide tomorrow if I’ll put him in the squad – so he’s close.”
The fact that West Brom arrive in Norfolk without either a win or a point to their name thus far cut little ice. An opening fixture list featuring Chelsea, Manchester United and Stoke City hadn’t been kind on Roy Hodgson’s outfit.
“I went and watched them against Stoke the other week and they played really well – and I thought they were excellent against Chelsea. They could have been two-up before Chelsea scored and I think they are a really solid side – really good. It’ll be a really tough game for us.”