Chelsea boss Andre Villas-Boas has been dishing out the compliments ahead of this weekend’s trip to Carrow Road as the Canaries look to finalise their first signing of the window.
A reported £2 million fee for Leeds midfielder Jonathan Howson, 23, has been agreed; his switch from Yorskhire to Norfolk is – apparently – now all down to a ‘stringent’ medical and negotiating personal terms.
It isn’t beyond the realms of possibility that today’s breaking news could simply be a case of Leeds flushing out other potential suitors for the former England Under-21 star’s talents.
That said, the manner in which Bradley Johnson has taken to Norfolk life like a duck to water could also have persuaded his former Elland Road team-mate to jump ship.
More will, no doubt, be revealed at tomorrow morning’s pre-match Press conference. He has been sidelined since the start of December with a knee injury; one that was reportedly due to keep him out of action for up to three months.
On that timetable, he won’t quite ‘hit the ground running’ as boss Paul Lambert hoped of any January transfer signings. He will, however, clearly stiffen the competition for places in that Canary midfield.
As for that Chelsea clash, fresh from those back-to-back away wins – first against QPR and most recently, of course, against West Bromwich Albion last weekend – the Canaries are now in the top half of the Premiership by design, not accident.
And as the Norfolk side prepare to go round the block a second time and face the Premier League’s finest for the second time this season, so their achievements to date have been noted – as have the means by which they achieved them.
Sticking together – and playing together. The simples.
“They have motivated players; always up to do their best; full of commitment to the manager and to eachother,” Villas-Boas told the club’s official website this week, as another big date in the Carrow Road diary looms ever larger.
Nor will it have gone unnoticed that the Londoners have been one of the few clubs to splash the cash this transfer window following his £7 million switch from Bolton this week. That figure is hardly the one that matters; he only had six months left to run on his Reebok deal – and at 26 could have walked on a free this summer.
The point that City boss Lambert has been trying to make of late is the wage figure Cahill’s signature commands in the top six of the Premier League – £80,000-a-week. According to some reports, talks started at £100,000 a week.
He may yet make his full Chelsea debut against Norwich this Saturday having trained for the first time with his new team-mates on Tuesday.
In the meantime, however, Villas-Boas was treading a cautious line – well aware of the ever-blossoming confidence last weekend’s 2-1 success at The Hawthorns will have instilled in Lambert’s players.
“It’s a great pleasure when teams achieve something with a certain style,” said the Chelsea chief, clearly a fan of Norwich’s positive attitude to Premiership life under the Scot.
“And victories are important for motivation,” he added.
“They have had an excellent run of results, and they continue to surprise established teams in the league, which shows the value of the work Paul [Lambert] and his team are doing.”
Chelsea’s own season has been something of a stop-start affair; they will now struggle to over-take the two powerhouses of Manchester and London’s finest – in the case of this season, Tottenham.
They need all of the above to slip up if they are ever to reel them in over the course of the spring.
“We need to find consistency in our own performances, it will be better if we beat Norwich, but I don’t care what happens in the other matches this weekend, we need to do our own job first and foremost,” he said.
City can, of course, look forward to a game in which they have nothing to lose and everything to gain from prising even a point out of their illustrious visitors.
In a sense, the pressure is off – they can go out and simply enjoy both the atmosphere and the game knowing that few will expect them, outside Norfolk at least, to deliver a result.
Given such freedom and the weight that it lifts off their shoulders, Villas-Boas’ wariness is probably well-placed.
And in the shape of Steve Morison and Grant Holt, the home side possess two of the more awkward centre-forwards in the division; both of whom are, of course, also in the goals.
Cahill may have to earn his £80,000 this week as the Canary duo prepare for battle.