City new-boy Jonny Howson was tonight looking forward to the prospect of a Canary debut away at Stoke City tomorrow – his longest-ever spell stuck on the sidelines finally nearing an end.
Since the attacking midfielder first broke into the Leeds first team aged 19, he has barely missed a game; four weeks was his last, longest enforced lay-off.
Now, some three months after first injuring his knee for the Whites at the start of December, Howson is ready to hit the ground round again for his new employers – fresh from completing a full, 90 minutes in the reserves’ mid-week win over Wolves.
“I was just glad to be back out there – back playing,” said the former Leeds skipper, whose £2 million exit in January did little to improve relations between the United faithful and their beloved chairman, Ken Bates.
Out of contract this summer, Howson could have walked out of Elland Road on a free – just as Bradley Johnson did to Carrow Road last summer.
So with his Premiership ambitions clear, Bates opted to cash in while he could with the Canaries reported to have paid in the region of £2 million for the remaining six months of his Leeds deal. Only trouble being that Howson arrived in Norfolk with said knee knock in tow.
Six weeks of rehab later and he is ready to prove his worth with Canary boss Paul Lambert deciding overnight where to slip Howson into his plans; the bench looks the best place to start – if only given the level of team performance the Canaries produced against Manchester United last weekend.
No, one individual deserves to be dropped form-wise; it is more a case of shape and tactics for the unique, physical challenges posed by the Potters that will dictate the manager’s thinking.
“It feels forever since I last played a competitive game,” said Howson, speaking to the Press at Colney this morning. He has, of course, now had all-too much time to watch his new colleagues in action.
“I had a fair idea before I came here of the type of team that they were,” he said. “And, obviously, I’ve got to know them a bit more since I’ve been here.
“But they’re a good bunch of lads; a good management team. And speaking to people when I first got down here, they all talked about the team spirit and the work ethic – and that’s the thing that stood out for me.
“They’ve all got the ability for how well they have done this season, but in every game they are putting it in and on the training ground. There’s always high standards.”
Howson will be joined in the journey north by fellow transfer window signing Ryan Bennett. For now, neither can take anything for granted given the heights to which the current Class of 2011-2012 are soaring.
“I think it shows how good the level of performance was [against Manchester United] when Sir Alex Ferguson comes out and says the better team lost. So it’s credit to everyone involved in terms of what they have done over these last two or three seasons.
“So whilst there was a disappointment last weekend, I think they walked away with their heads held high.”
Tomorrow’s trip to the Britannia will provide a whole new set of challenges – not least whenever the ball goes out for a throw.
“Obviously they’re known for the physical aspect to their game, but they have got some good players as well. And in the little time that I’ve spent watching Norwich, there’s no easy games here.
“Just speaking to the lads, every game is a massive game and Saturday will be no different.”
Howson made 190 league appearances for Leeds, scoring 25 goals into the bargain, ahead of this season’s switch to Norfolk. With both the skipper’s armband and England Under-21 appearances to his name, he comes with real pedigree.
He is, clearly, itching for a return to the fray.
“I’m not good at watching games,” he admitted. “I think if you ask any professional, they don’t like watching.
“But maybe with me coming to a new club it’s helped in a little way – it’s enabled me to watch how things are done and how the lads deal with certain situations. But, as I said, like any professional watching, you’re always thinking: ‘I wish it was me out there…’
Tomorrow it might be; Lambert has many an option at his disposal – a first run-out for Howson merely being the most intriguing.
“It’s going to be very difficult at this minute in time to push into that side because of how well the lads are doing. So, yes, it is going to be very difficult.
“But when it comes round, I just can’t wait for that moment.”