I should confess I didn’t go to Aldiss park yesterday but by all accounts the ‘winners’, by some considerable distance, were Dereham Town.
Not only did the Ryman North club benefit from a bumper gate but their energetic display ran City close – a little too close for comfort it seems.
Of course, from a Canary perspective little should be read into the scoreline and the first game of pre-season notoriously serves little purpose other than than to dust down the summer cobwebs.
And while I’m not convinced my overly simplistic ‘rubbish pre-season/good start to the season’ adage ever really held true, there is little doubt that all that really matters is what happens at Molineux on August 10.
But City do need to rediscover the winning habit from somewhere – especially those who were part of last season’s relegation – and if it takes a scrappy 1-0 win at Dereham to kick-start that process, so be it.
Last season’s relegation will have left a few scars and the losing mentality that pervaded over that traumatic run-in needs to be turned around.
So while most pre-seasons are about gaining match fitness and experimenting with different permutations and formations – the results of almost secondary importance – I suspect Team Adams will be looking for some wins to boost that fragile confidence.
Losing became the norm. The mindset that accompanied it has to change.
The main talking points prior to yesterday’s game were the absentees in the squad of 21 but, ever the king of tact and diplomacy, Neil Adams fended them off post-match with a straight bat that Alastair Cook would kill for right now.
Ricky van Wolfswinkel’s absence, it appears, was the result of him missing training on Friday – presumably due to a knock – and he is expected to join the squad for Tuesday’s game at Braintree.
Sebastien Bassong – who yesterday was part of the development squad that lost 3-1 at Boston yesterday – may also be included in the party that travels to Braintree. Adams will await a report on the Cameroonian’s performance from Paul Nevin, which, if the hardly impartial Boston Standard is to believed, may not be wholly favourable.
Bassong was clearly one of the first challenges put before Adams upon his temporary appointment back in April and, back then, the City boss opted to take the former player-of-the-season out of the equation. Minus a sizeable shift in attitude it’s difficult to see a way for him to force his way back in to the manager’s plans.
I suspect Bassong’s agent is a very busy man right now.
Wes Hoolahan and Anthony Pilkington’s absences were explained by their late arrival for pre-season due to their Republic of Ireland duties, although both are back in training now and are also scheduled to be part of the Braintree squad.
Martin Olsson’s delayed start to pre-season was not, as expected, due to a shoulder operation, but instead due to compassionate leave granted by the club. He too is scheduled to join the ever-burgeoning Braintree masses.
In terms of the highlights emerging from Dereham, it was clearly good that Lewis Grabban and Kyle Lafferty had their first taste of life in the yellow and Josh Murphy, by all accounts, kicked off the season with the look of a young man on a mission.
If he, and brother Jacob, can now ‘kick on’ in the way we all hope, both could feature prominently in Adams’ thoughts as the season progresses. And if so there’ll be no shortage of that rare commodity call pace.
Whether City’s quicksilver attacking options will include the talents of Nathan Redmond remains to be seen, with Southampton and Stoke reportedly lining up a move for the England Under-21 international.
While the youngster appears content at Norwich, and there is little doubt another season in Championship would do him no harm in terms of perfecting his final ball, money talks very loudly when in earshot of a footballer’s agent. You can be sure young Redmond will be getting plenty of ‘advice’ from those who would also benefit.
I’d like to see him stay – and I suspect he’d be happy to do so – but if cash-rich Southampton come calling it may be a difficult one to turn down.
Gary Hooper continues to be linked with a move away but, to date, Adams reports that no bids have been received for any of his players. I remain convinced Arry will be wanting to lure the ex-Celtic man to Shepherd’s Bush having missed out on him at the eleventh hour last summer.
And today’s Sunday papers are now claiming Leroy Fer and John Ruddy to be the latest in the sights of Premier League clubs with QPR (who else?) and Arsenal said to be ‘interested’.
While it’s conceivable that Ruddy could be a decent fit for the Gunners, there appear plenty of other keepers on Arsene Wenger’s list of ‘possibles’ – so don’t be surprised if the Big Man is on duty at Molineux.
Fer looks a more likely departee, with his fifteen minutes of action in Brazil including that eye-catching header. His agent’s phone will have been buzzing from the second that ball hit the net and I’d be amazed – as well as delighted – if he is in canary yellow on August 10.
But, it’s still early days and there is time for plenty of comings and goings before the Old Gold hover into view.
Let’s hope by then we have a reasonably settled squad and one that’s rediscovered that elusive habit called winning.