Given that, bar the odd mathematical twist and turn, this season is all-but done and dusted, it is somewhat inevitable that speculation will turn to Paul Lambert’s summer spending plans.
Not that his budget is entirely set in stone. As has become clear over the last couple of weeks, the Canary chief could be up to £5 million the richer depending on which way those final nine points of the season fall.
And given his ability to dig something special out of the Football League for half that sum, it is a figure not to be sniffed at.
So in the spirit of idle speculation and – given that Carrow Road is stitched up as tight as the proverbial gnat’s a*se these days wink and a nudge-wise – it will never be anything more than that, two teams crossed my thoughts last weekend.
The PFA’s Championship Team of the Year and – given the manner in which both Anthony Pilkington and Elliott Bennett have taken to Premier League life like ducks to water without the need for a Championship education – the same for League One.
So here, for the record, is the 11 individuals that their Championship peers picked out for their efforts in the 2011-12 season:
Kelvin Davis (Southampton); Nathaniel Clyne (Crystal Palace), James Tomkins (West Ham), Curtis Davies (Birmingham), Ian Harte (Reading); Adam Lallana (Southampton), Peter Whittingham (Cardiff), Mark Noble (West Ham), Matt Phillips (Blackpool); Rickie Lambert (Southampton), Jay Rodriguez (Burnley).
And here is the same for League One:
Ben Hamer (Charlton); Jack Hunt (Huddersfield), Michael Morrison (Charlton), Harry Maguire (Sheffield United), Rhoys Wiggins (Charlton); Johnnie Jackson (Charlton), Stephen Quinn (Sheffield United), Stephen Gleeson (MK Dons), Darren Potter (MK Dons); Jordan Rhodes (Huddersfield), Ched Evans (Sheffield United).
My intention is, actually, to do little more than let you lot chew the cud over those 22 names.
It is hardly rocket science to work out what you need to be to catch the eye of a passing Canaries scout these days.
And, nor, is it too wishful to think that on the back of their achievements this term under Lambert, for anyone in that list Norwich is a ‘hot’ ticket this summer.
As much as those Charlton boys might, for example, be relishing their chance to prove their worth in the Championship next season, money and opportunity will clearly talk.
I would suspect that you can rule out both keepers; with John Ruddy, Declan Rudd and Jed Steer at his call, Lambert is as blessed with goalkeeping talent as any Norwich City manager has been for many a year.
There ain’t no situation vacant there.
After that, however, and who knows? Certain individuals can be ruled out in an instant.
Ian Harte doesn’t wholly fit the age profile; nor is he Mr Popular in these parts, whilst the tale of Ched Evans needs no repeating here.
Equally, none of the Southampton and West Ham boys will be looking to decide their future in a hurry – not until the final promotion place behind Reading plays out; likewise, the lottery of the play-offs to follow.
Curtis Davies’ name has already done the gossip rounds; with the Elliott Wards and the Zak Whitbreads out of contract this summer, the centre-half department remains something of a moveable feast.
Nathaniel Clyne looks interesting; 21 years old; England Under-21 international; Palace Player of the Year for 2010-11. Whether he’s saarrrff London – end of – might be the question. As will Kyle Naughton’s movements this summer.
As for the League One team, there is one name that leaps out there.
Interestingly, fresh from bagging goals No 36 and 37 for the season, one Lee Clark – formerly of this parish and the man that took a certain, one-time Town youngster to Huddersfield – was to be found singing the kid’s praises in The Daily Mail.
And Norwich’s track record in giving the brightest and the best in League One their Premier League spurs was not lost on the former Canaries No2.
“He can play in the Premier League,” Clark told the paper. “Norwich players have made the jump from League One. Swansea have some players who were in League Two. Jordan can make that jump.”
As to what he would bring to the party, goals would appear to be the short and simple answer.
“You get some strikers who want to be No 10s, who want to create as well as score,” said Clark.
“Jordan wants to be a No 9. He comes alive in the box. He’s very good at getting across the face of defenders and his general play has improved year on year.
“That’s because he’s a fantastic kid, he listens, he stays behind, he practises. That’s why he’s successful.”
Chris Riches says
Sounds like Mr Clark expects him to leave and is talking up his value…