OK, so pre-season has not ended on quite the up-tempo note we had hoped for, but as we’re constantly reminded these days – Let’s all keep calm and carry on… to Craven Cottage.
Despite being unable to make the Borussia Monchengladbach game (I can promise you that 90 minutes of being outplayed by some Germans would have been preferable to an eight-hour drive back from Cornwall), I gather it was not overly pretty.
However, we all know that it is what happens next Saturday that counts. A point or three – or even just a decent performance – will consign the events of the last few weeks to history. Similarly a goal from Grant Holt will make the shenanigans of June seem like a distant memory.
For what it’s worth we were in good company with several other Premier League clubs failing to win their final, or at least penultimate, warm-up game.
It may be overly simplistic but my general rule is that an indifferent pre-season means a good start to the season and vice-versa. No logic or statistics to back this up I’m afraid but just a gut feeling of seasons gone by.
With Chris Hughton starting with the same XI for the final two warm-up games it does not take a genius to work out his thinking. In order to best accommodate the skills of Robert Snodgrass he looks to be toying with the idea of playing Holt up top on his own with the Scottish international playing just off him.
In doing so we should hopefully – *crosses everything* – be better prepared to retain possession of the ball.
The flip side of this is, of course, the potential for isolation of the lone striker, whether that be Holt, Steve Morison or A N Other. It’s a tricky call and I’m guessing that over the course of the season Hughton will be prepared to tinker accordingly, and sometimes perm two from his current five striking options. Equally we may still see a new face to add into the equation before the transfer window shuts.
When playing away from home the one-striker option appears perfectly plausible, but time will tell if the Canary faithful will warm to this approach in the Norfolk version of Paradise.
As always, results are everything and we currently have no reason to doubt the wisdom of Team Hughton.
If I were just permitted one wish it would be that this management team is afforded a honeymoon period in the same way that most new incumbents are. As we all know, the N&P hard-core can be an unforgiving old bunch at times.
Interestingly, if Hughton does go with one up front he is spoilt for choice with regard to his ‘number 10’.
It seems that currently it is Snodgrass’ shirt to lose, but with Jacob Butterfield chomping at the bit to begin his Premier League adventure and our own Wes Hoolahan having proved himself more than capable in that role let’s hope it leads to a good, clean, competitive fight.
In the centre of defence it looks likely that a Michael Turner/Ryan Bennett combo will be the order of the day with the former Peterborough man having edged out the unfortunate Daniel Ayala for the ‘talented youngster’ slot.
Although this is undoubtedly a shame for the former Liverpool man, who has spent a significant proportion of his English career out on loan to a variety of Championship sides, it forms a necessary part of Hughton’s squad pruning exercise.
With the London 2012 Olympics drawing to a close as I write, we are being asked to ponder if football will benefit from the bounce that many of the minority sports are deservedly expecting.
There’s no doubting that those footballers involved will have benefited greatly from the Olympic experience, but I suspect, if anything, the game as a whole will temporarily suffer as a result.
Putting aside for a moment the incomparable financial rewards on offer to the average Olympian compared to the average footballer, the dedication required in pursuit of Olympic glory generally outweighs that of top level footballers.
Early morning starts; a disproportionate pain/success ratio; the need for many to juggle training with full-time work… the sacrifices required of an Olympian are numerous.
When compared to the relatively cushy lifestyle reserved for the 1,000+ footballers in the top two divisions there is little wonder that for one fortnight every four years a few millionaire ‘Big Time Charlies’ can be seen fidgeting a little uneasily in their lazy-boy recliners.
Joe Public is far from stupid and no-one can fail to spot the obvious inequalities between the two… it just only comes to the fore for those two weeks or so.
Further perspective can be drawn from the fact that the maximum Sport England grant available for elite athletes equates to circa £25,000 per annum… Enough said.
However, I am fairly sure that the group of players gathered by Paul Lambert, and now added to by Hughton, contains none of these said ‘Charlies’, and are genuine, honest, hard-working lads (all prerequisites of Lambert).
Sadly, the same can’t be said of some of the so-called ‘superstars’ (You know who I’m talking about) and it’s these who I suspect Joe P will see in a slightly different light… at least for a few weeks.
Anyway… with that off my chest it’s now all eyes on our Saturday date on the bank of the Thames.
Let’s keep everything crossed that the ball is kept on the green stuff and in possession of those grafters in yellow. Three points will make all of those gruelling 10am starts well worth the effort!