With just over a week to the big kick-off, you can almost smell the match day crowd and hear the primitive roar of anticipation.
I think most of us if we’re honest are feeling a heady mix of excitement and nerves and are being tormented in the middle of the night by questions such as:
Is the squad strong enough?
Will the defence cope with the likes of Aguero and Costa?
Do we have enough firepower?
Shall I buy the 3rd kit just for the novelty value?
With the seemingly never-ending Robbie Brady transfer done and dusted, the main topic of polite and not so polite conversation now revolves around the trials and tribulations of the club’s still record signing Ricky van Wolfswinkel.
Rarely has a single player split the Canaries faithful in such a ‘Marmite’ fashion. There is most definitely a YES – we love him/give him a chance camp, and a NO – forget it, it’s not gonna happen for the lad camp.
For me, all the evidence is that he isn’t sharp enough when the opportunities arise in a game and just seems too small in stature to survive the cut and thrust of a long gruelling season up against rough and tough Premier-standard defenders.
The counter argument seems to be he works hard for the team (a quality that Gary Hooper doesn’t always convey), makes intelligent runs to find space and has a good first touch (maybe something Lewis Grabban consistently lacks).
Cameron Jerome has the lot. Kyle Lafferty, I’m presuming, will not be hanging around.
Ricky seems to be the darling of the Twitter world and is cut a lot more slack for missing chances than Lewis Grabban in particular.
I didn’t go to the West Ham game so can’t personally comment on his performance.
Instead I sat in front of a blank screen waiting for Mustard TV’s coverage. I won’t say anymore as they’ve probably suffered enough, suffice to say we all hope the technical glitches which cursed them that night will have been eradicated for the Brentford coverage.
There were reports of Ricky being booed by some at the ground after failing to take the best chance which came his way. If so, I’m sure it was the same thoughtless minority who dished out similar treatment to one or two others last season when things were going pear-shaped.
In his post match comments, Alex Neil seemed intent on highlighting positive aspects of the game in general and gave some honest and insightful thoughts on his Dutch striker:
“I don’t think he is ever going to be a big, strapping centre forward who is going to bash people about, however, if we can get the ball around the middle of the park the one thing he is good at is running off defenders’ shoulders and creating angles and creating space for himself.”
Who am I to pick an argument with Sir Alex of Norwich. His recorded thoughts after games have always come across as very well expressed, encouraging and comforting in both victory and defeat.
Sadly, we are not privy to his private thoughts or those given in the dressing room after a game.
However, “… the one thing he is good at is…” is not so encouraging. A top class striker has to possess more tools in the box than that?
It’s good to have options of course – players who can bring different qualities to games when it’s needed – but for a striker there has to be a consistent end product; the bulge of the net, the salute to the crowd and the hugs of team mates. I’m talking goals.
The vast majority, including me, want Ricky to succeed and to prove the doubters wrong by cementing his place as our number one striker, who goes on to score 15-20 goals in the most physically demanding league in the world.
Sadly, none of those seem very likely right now.
Clearly Ricky has not lost the talent which was evident at Sporting Lisbon but sometimes it just doesn’t happen for an individual at a particular club.
There are numerous examples where this has been the case, the most costly of which is probably Roberto Soldado at Spurs who came to England with a greater reputation than Ricky and a price tag about three times bigger.
Whatever you put Ricky’s lack of goals down to – Chris Hughton/Neil Adams/Robert Snodgrass, bad luck, inspired goalkeeping or evil cosmic forces – there comes a time to draw a line under it and move on.
For me, Jerome and Grabban have shown, albeit in the Championship, more than enough to be Neil’s go to men up top come the visit of Palace.
Of course, Neil and David McNally may still have new striking targets in mind before September 1.
If there is to be a parting of the ways for Ricky and Norwich, then best of luck, no hard feelings. A case of “que sera sera”.
It’s up to Ricky in whatever time he has left to ‘up his game’, find the back of the net and pull himself up the pecking order.
He probably knows that already but can he do anything about it?