City boss Chris Hughton will be handed an early season selection headache for the away trip to Hull City as he tries to squeeze skipper Sebastien Bassong back into his plans.
Last season’s Player of the Season sat out this weekend’s opening 2-2 draw with Everton through a niggling injury, but was expected to be fit again in time for the visit to the Humber.
But with club skipper Russell Martin throwing himself into the fray with his usual commitment and Steven Whittaker emerging with a big goal and a shanked assist to his name, so Hughton will have much to ponder in the run-up to the Tigers clash.
A quiet day at the office for Wes Hoolahan could make Leroy Fer’s debut a formality after the Dutch Under-21 international found himself suspended for this weekend’s opener.
And with the two wingers – Elliott Bennett and Nathan Redmond – worthy of another nod on the back of their respective efforts, so both Gary Hooper and Robert Snodgrass might have to wait their turn.
But it is at the back that Hughton faces his biggest selection test – it would be rough justice on Whittaker should he be the one to make way for Bassong’s return.
Particularly given events of last summer where the ex-Rangers star found himself sidelined for the whole of the autumn following that pre-season ‘friendly’ with Glasgow rivals Celtic. A night out with the Bhoys gave the 29-year-old Scottish international a parting gift he could have well done without.
“Last season I got injured pre-season which wasn’t the start that I wanted and that put me out for a good few months right at the start,” said Whittaker, signed on a free from a financially-stricken Ibrox last summer.
“I managed to get in the team and then picked up another injury again, so it was stop-start with injuries,” he added.
“I still feel that I have got something to prove after not playing as manay games as I would have liked last season, but it is a good start and, hopefully, it can continue.”
Against the Tigers, ideally.
Whilst the two goals – in particular the soft second – weren’t the greatest to concede, Norwich showed more than enough spirit defensively and were rightly rewarded with their first point of the season on Day One of the new Premier League campaign.
“We were a little bit disappointed with the goals [we conceded], but to go a goal behind and to come back shows a bit of character. And, so, yes we were happy with a point in the end,” said Whittaker, whose 51st minute goal via a one-two with Tim Howard’s right upright sparked a thrilling second period capped by Ricky van Wolfswinkel’s debut goal.
“We got in front and, obviously, we would have liked to have stayed in the lead for a little while longer and try to see it out – but it wasn’t to be.
“Everton got two, quick-fire goals which put us behind and, like I say, good character to get the goal that matters,” said Whittaker.
It has certainly been a busy start to the new season; he alongside team-mates Martin and Snodgrass were at Wembley in mid-week for the Scotland-England game; all three City players figured large for the visitors – Snodgrass failing to shake off a slight groin strain from his international exertions.
“We didn’t actually get back to Norwich till the Thursday – it’s not the ideal preparation, but you adapt the best way you can and try and be in the best shape that you can for the Saturday,” said Whittaker, whose surging run deep into the Everton box was rewarded with the coolest of finishes.
It took steady nerves and a steady aim to finish the job from a tightening angle after his first, curling effort cannoned back to him.
“As a defender you never really think that you’re going to get on the score-sheet. I try and join in when I can; try and get forward,” he said. “But I got a little bit lucky with a ricochet that went in my favour, but once I was in there I managed to put it in the net.
“It would have been nice for that one to have dropped in; I thought it was going to hit the post and go in, but luckily it came straight back into my path and managed to slot it back in.”
Michael D says
In the last 20 mins the midfield was defensively stronger and more potent in attack – which suggests that Howson is the better link person in front with Fer and Tettey (or Johnson) behind. As for the back, Bassong for Turner and keep Martin where he is for the moment. There’s Olsson too, at left back.
What I am looking forward to seeing is a game where we shade the possession and can show some greater midfield control.
I don’t think it’s much of a dilemma. If Bassong is fully fit then he should play, he is our best defender by a mile.
Not sure what game I watched, because the match I watched had Norwich completely outplayed, and again entirely negative football. That’s with sir wolfswinkie. Who may I add, Only touched the ball 12 times. That’s embarrassing all round.
Not sure touching the ball 12 times a week is really going to get him that world cup spot he wants.
That you think Bennett’s performance was worthy of making snodgrass wait?!?
Roll on Hughton’s Christmas sacking.
John C says
Agree with Andy (2) – I would definitely put Bassong straight in, my suggestion :
Whittaker, Martin, Bassong, Olsson
Bennett Fer Redmond
Gary Gowers says
Michael (3) – You serious? Or on a wind up?
First game of the season with four ‘starters’ missing – seems a tad early for judgements like that.
RvW – One goal in every 12 touches – I’ll take that all season long.
Thanks for reading