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.
Morris C. says
A win and a clean sheet – what Brazil wouldn’t give for that right now!
Our pre-season trips to Dereham seem to be suffering from the law of diminishing returns. In 2000 it was 9-0 and 2001, it was 3-0. Maybe best to quit while we we are ahead. Both those seasons kicked off away and we lost both without scoring (Barnsley & Millwall) so omen-wise, read into that what you will.
Still, I’m sure there was plenty of good feeling and PR done yesterday. Lafferty looks much better in yellow than pink;
Stewart Lewis says
Our 2010-11 Championship promotion season started with 9 pre-season games, almost all against minor/non-League teams. I believe we won 3, lost 3, drew 3 – hardly an auspicious record, so Gary’s adage has some validity.
But then, we were used to winning…
Keith B says
I will be pleasantly surprised if Fer is still with us by the time the transfer window closes. Even if our own Premiership clubs don’t chase him I’m sure there must be clubs on the continent who will – maybe someone in the UEFA cup needing strength in depth for example.
The stumbling block might be the fee because his contract still has a while to run, and he’s part of a top international squad – considering what we received for Snodgrass that suggests a double-figures bid should be required.
As for Ruddy he too is on a long contract but my impression is that he would prefer to play for us in the second tier than sit on a Premiership bench. We are all convinced that he was hard done by over the World Cup, but our only tangible justification is that Foster had made himself unavailable for a while and therefore did not “deserve” to be recalled.
Ruddy himself will probably have a much better understanding of why he was overlooked, even if it was a close call, and if there are technical issues which wouldn’t necessarily be obvious to most fans then he may feel he can only resolve them by playing regularly.
Trouble is Declan Rudd may feel the same and have had enough of loans, so it wouldn’t surprise me if he goes instead.
As for the rest there have been clubs – notably West Ham a year or so ago and QPR last year – who managed to keep most of their big names for a Championship campaign. It would be good to think we might do the same, but the reason they could may be that they had no, or few, relegation wage cuts in place.
We are told that all our squad have taken a pay cut so realistically most of them are going to be open to the idea of a move, even if it only got back half of what they’ve lost. The big question is does anyone really want them?
Alf Resco says
Pre-season results mean diddly squat other than as confidence suppliers and an indication to the boss as to who has ‘the right stuff’ come the trip to the black country. Too many easy wins and goals can lead to over-confidence come the main event. Dereham win/clean sheet – job done.
History on August 10th tells us that (1) we have an awful track record at Molineux and (2) we’ve only won once away on the opening day in the last 20 years (Luton – ’95-96). Combine those facts and a victory at the Wolves would be of near miraculous proportions.
The last time we got dumped from the Prem., we started terribly (’05-06) with just 2 wins (9 points)in the first 10 games but recovered to a respectable 9th finish. If we’re serious about promotion, we need a min. of 15 points from games 1-10 to kick on for a happier summer than this one.
Bring on ‘The Iron’ of Braintree.. no surprises there please.
Ruddy has never convinced me….
I’m less bothered about who the players are than I am in Adams setting a style of play, and building a team for the long term.
Adams is clearly a fan of the club, which is both a boon and a problem….
The situation City are in – with question marks hanging over the future of much of the squad – aptly demonstrates why relegated Premier League teams often struggle in their first season the Championship. It also helps explain why promoted teams from League One, who arrive with a more settled group of players versed in the art of winning games, often do well.
I have been impressed with the way Adams has handled Bassong. We cannot afford to tolerate people like him with such an appalling attitude at the club. The manager needs to ship him and others on the unwanted list out of the club as soon as possible. I understand why there would be a financial temptation to wait for the very best offer, but I believe more value is to be gained from Adams having time to build his own squad. Our first two away games are against teams who will be hungry and desperate to beat us, for different reasons. If we go to Molineux and Portman Road with players in the team with one eye on forcing a move to the Premier League before the end of the transfer window, we will lose – potentially heavily. The rumbles of discontent that appeared when Adams was appointed will resurface, and the season could be fatally undermined before it has properly started. To give himself and the club the best chance of success, Neil needs to get rid of as many of the squad who don’t want to stay as quickly as possible. However much supporters might like the idea of seeing Leroy Fer pull on the shirt for us this season, if after scoring in Brazil he doesn’t fancy playing in Bournemouth then we need to get rid. Fast.
Stewart Lewis says
If there was a ‘retweet’ equivalent here, I’d use it to try and give Matt’s comment (6) the circulation it deserves. Spot on, Matt.
Gary Gowers says
Agreed Stewart (7).
Matt (6) has, in my mind, hit the nail squarely on the head.
Well said sir
Danny Lineker says
Matt (6) – the club should hire you as a football consultant now ‘Ratty Royle’ has jumped ship – 1 day short of Cloughie at Leeds (at least he saw some game time). I’m sure Neil can handle any other unhappy rats over the next month or so.
Michael D says
If you count all the players Adams has used at Dereham and Braintree + Fer and Bassong, that’s 28 people. Obviously far too many for a squad, so he needs to lighten up quickly, especially if he wants to bring anyone else in too. So to me, that adds even more urgency to Matt’s point. Some youngsters may go out on loan, but I’d rather see the squad lightened up by those who don’t want to be here first.
Of course, the trickier situation lies with those who are quite happy to be here, but for whom sizeable offers come in – Ruddy, Redmond, Olsson, all of whom I’m sure Adams would prefer to keep. Hooper he might not mind going, but it still has to be worth it. And a minor sub-plot for now, the mental and physical state of Ricky. Guess we might learn a little tonight, but maybe not a whole lot. More pertinent decision making comes when Adams chooses his group for the Italy trip. It’s not going to be 28 people (or even 26 if Fer and Bassong are immediately excluded)…