The phrase ‘Steady as she goes…’ would appear to be tailor-made for Norwich City’s pre-season performances as Canary boss Chris Hughton mulled over Friday night’s 0-0 draw with MK Dons.
Clean sheets are coming a-plenty and while City failed to give the 900-odd travelling supporters a goal to cheer on their Friday night out, they did at least get a first glimpse of new-boys Robert Snodgrass and Michael Turner as Hughton looks to bed both players in ahead of the start of the new Premier League season on August 18.
Before that opener away at Fulham, Turner will get the chance to return to old haunts at Hull City in mid-week before the final dress rehearsal of the summer arrives with the visit of Borussia Monchengladbach next Saturday.
It will be then that the Norwich faithful will get a better idea as to who Hughton might favour come the trip to Craven Cottage.
For now, however, it appears that he is keen on simply ensuring that his squad head for 2012-2013 battle with fitness tanks topped across the board – hence his delight at simply getting 90 minutes under the belt of new-boy Snodgrass.
Equally, the fact that Norwich go into the final fortnight of pre-season without any fresh casualties following Steven Whittaker’s misfortunes back in Glasgow will please the City chief and his coaching team. Steady as she goes, steady as she goes…
“There are only a couple more pre-season games now, and we need to make sure we’re ready and firing,” Hughton told the club’s official website this weekend, reflecting on a game in which Steve Morison found himself on centre-stage up front whilst new-boy Turner enjoyed 65 minutes in the company of Leon Barnett before being replaced with Ryan Bennett.
The two fresh faces almost delivered a goal just before the hour-mark as Snodgrass’ corner found Turner rising highest; the keeper forced into a smart save to deny the 28-year-old former Sunderland centre-half.
“I was delighted that Snodgrasss got 90 minutes – the new lads aren’t so far behind in terms of fitness,” said Hughton afterwards, clearly delighted to have added an older, Premier League head into the mix.
Certainly for the likes of Bennett (R) and Daniel Ayala, having someone of Turner’s nous about the place can only be of benefit.
“He’s a player of experience, and you could see how comfortable he was on the ball. We’ve brought him in for that experience and the fact that he’s played in the Premier League.
“He’s a good age for us too,” added Hughton.
The Canary chief also used the trip to Stadium MK to blood one or two of his younger guns – most notably Academy striker Josh Murphy who replaced Simeon Jackson for the game’s closing stages. George Francomb also got a full 90-minutes under his belt as Hughton continues to ponder the level of strength he has in each department.
Could, for example, he do with a Kyle Naughton-type loan raid at full-back before the summer transfer window closes?
The other big question that remains unansweredis how far away Jacob Butterfield remains from featuring in a competitive outing.
With less than two weeks to go, the chances are that the ex-Barnsley skipper will struggle to make that date with Fulham having been sidelined since the New Year with a nasty ankle injury.
On his arrival, he suggested that he was still on schedule; was close to resuming full-time training. Given the reputation that preceeded him, he is not the worst player in the world to have up your sleeve and raring to go when full match fitness allows.