It may have begun as a slow burner, but with activity gathering apace over the last week the Hughton era is now well and truly under way.
Following quickly on the heels of the signing of Steven Whittaker, Hughton delivered us 15 goal-a-season centre-forward of the old fashioned variety and a bright young attacking midfielder full of tricks, goals and promise.
The centre-forward is a bloke called Grant Holt (not to be confused with Gary Holt) – a robust sort I’m told, who’ll not be afraid to mix-it with those precious Premier League central defenders.
Apparently he has a happy knack of scoring goals and has done so at virtually every level he’s played at – I was also told he was on the outer fringes of the England squad at the back end of last season. Some say he’s not afraid to speak his mind either… and is a born leader.
Given the impressive CV I’m guessing we must have blown a massive chunk of our transfer budget on this Holt bloke… don’t you think?
I jest of course – and yes, I agree… sarcasm doesn’t translate well to copy – but you get my gist.
The fact that the club had managed to keep the clearly extensive behind-the-scenes activity private merely added to the elation when it finally happened. Three more years of security for the Holt family, tens of thousands of happy Canary fans and a beaming new manager – all revealed in the space of 20 Carrow Road minutes.
And yes, it did feel like a new signing… one who cost £4.5m plus add-ons. (Apologies to West Ham).
It was clear from his first Press conference as a Norwich City employee that Hughton knew the value of Holt to the club and, in many ways, from that moment the die was cast. The new manager’s determined yet gentle aura impressed many at that first outing and it’s fair to assume that Holt was equally enthused.
It seems the original transfer request was borne of a combination of things – greater security for the Holt family; parity of pay with the new boys; some less than helpful advice; and a general feeling of uncertainty following Lambert’s departure.
It’s fair to say that we, as supporters, felt that same sense of unease so one can only assume how unsettling that same scenario can be for those directly involved.
There’s no denying that the whole saga could have been handled better on both sides but, without knowing the finer detail, what appeared an almost impossible impasse has been somehow resolved. The longer it dragged on the less likely it appeared that we’d see Holt in yellow again – I’d already prepared myself for life AH [after-Holt] – so credit to everyone involved for sorting it.
Many – me included – have confessed to loving Holty that little bit less after his seemingly clinical transfer request, but we’re a fickle old bunch. I’m fairly sure that a brace or two early on in the season and all will be forgotten. A bit illogical – unreasonable even… but that’s football for you.
Such was the impact of Holt’s contract extension, the signing of Jacob Butterfield and formal introduction of Steven Whittaker never really stood a chance. In fact, had it not been for Hughton deliberately, and sensitively, steering proceedings away from Holt and on to his new signings you get the feeling both could have easily tip-toed out of the Press conference unnoticed.
The experience and know-how that Whittaker brings has already been discussed, but in Butterfield we appear to have a signed a bright young thing in the Pilkington mould. With an England Under-21 cap to his name he comes with a reputation that is growing ever brighter – although the comparison by some to Paul Gascoigne is no doubt a tad premature, not to mention unfair on the lad himself.
One of his many qualities appears to be his ability to kick equally well with either foot – another similarity to Pilkington – and coupled with a finely-tuned footballing brain all things point to us having a real prospect on our hands.
His preference to play just behind a front two (or one) makes it appear a straight shoot-out between him and Hoolihan for the ‘No 10’ position, but perhaps Hughton will look to accommodate both. After all, Spain did OK in Euro 2012 by flooding their midfield with players of the short, skilful type.
A quick internet search reveals that Newcastle, amongst others, were also said to be in the frame to sign Butterfield as recently as May – and so to secure his services has to be seen as a major boost ahead of pre-season. Let’s hope he can overcome his knee injury prior to 18 August to complete the ‘a la Pilkington’ hat-trick.
With Culverhouse and Karsa finally making their way down the A14, as most of us had predicted, and Dave Watson – the current England goalkeeping coach – almost certainly making the reverse trip from Birmingham City things are starting to take shape.
And so… Team Hughton is looking in good shape and the new boss is now putting his own stamp on the squad.
Just keep an eye on that Holt bloke… He could turn out to be handy.