City boss Chris Hughton tonight paid tribute to the young man that will dominate many a newspaper headline tomorrow – 19-year-old winger Nathan Redmond.
“We need to look after that one,” said Hughton, as the teenager continued to sparkle on that Premier League stage.
The England Under-21 international grabbed the only goal in today’s huge 1-0 home win over Southampton – Norwich first win of the new season.
It was the young man’s just desserts for another eye-catching effort away on the City left as the former St Andrews starlet tore into Saints defender Calum Chambers from virtually the first minute to the last. In between which he opened his own scoring account for his new employers with a 68th minute duck and drive inside Artur Boruc’s right-hand post.
And all in front of the watching England Under-21 boss Gareth Southgate.
“We’ve got him at a good time,” said Hughton, who knew all about the young man’s talents from his own spell as Blues boss. He also knew all about Birmingham’s impoverished finances – that reported £2 million plus add-ons transfer fee looking a total steal.
“He was in very good form at the end of last season with Birmingham; he joined us in pre-season and he has managed to continue that,” said the Canary boss, as his charges kept themselves in the top half of the early Premier League table with today’s first success.
“But we know he’s young – and we know that his game is going to go in highs and lows,” Hughton told the BBC afterwards. “But at the moment he is in very, very good form. But I thought his performance was just one of a group of players that played very well today.”
Indeed, the sponsors Man of the Match award actually went to new Dutch arrival Leroy Fer, as the 23-year-old demonstrated the kind of midfield athleticism that Hughton knows is key to sustaining a Premier League footing for the Norfolk club.
Much of the attention tonight will be focussed on the three, huge penalty appeals that referee Howard Webb chose to wave away. The handball against Bradley Johnson from an Adam Lallana strike was only eclipsed in terms of stone-walls by Jose Fonte’s lunge across Robert Snodgrass as the Canary winger looked to make the contest safe deep into injury time.
With three points safely in the bag, Hughton could afford to be generous in his assessment of the referee’s decisions – even if he remained non-plussed by events deep into added-on time.
“We were on the back of a very poor decision at Hull last week, but I thought that [Fonte on Snodgrass] was one that we should have had today,” he said.
What was abundantly clear, however, was the manager’s sense of relief that he had that first win under his belt – and that the likes of both Redmond and Fer are already starting to prove their worth.
His £8.5m striker Ricky van Wolfswinkel might not have added to his goal tally, but it is increasingly evident that the Dutch international needs a line of supply to capitalise on his instinctive predatory movements in the box.
The return of skipper Sebastien Bassong at the heart of that City defence also prompted Norwich’s first clean sheet of the season; that, too, would be a cause for celebration – even if it needed the width of a post to deny Lallana before the break.
It was the one time that England No1 hopeful John Ruddy looked properly beaten. Otherwise it was another commanding day at the office for Joe Hart’s understudy.
And somewhere into that mix he has yet to add Gary Hooper who has still to make an appearance in anger following that pre-season shin injury. He, at least, now has another fortnight to recover as everyone breaks for international duties.
“What the most pleasing? The win,” said Hughton. “Particularly at this early stage of the season after a really good draw against Everton and a really disappointing defeat against Hull away it was just important that we got the win.”
With eight new players in the building this summer – including Javier Garrido’s full-time move – the Canary chief didn’t appear in any undue hurry to be burning the midnight oil through to Monday night’s summer transfer window deadline.
The club will still be looking, he said. “But I’m happy with what I’ve got,” he added.