Upon signing for City towards the end of August, for a fee rumoured to be worth up to £5 million, Jordan Hugill was awarded the number nine shirt and billed as the heir to great Grant Holt.
But, three games into the new campaign, it is yet to become clear how prominent his role will be this season.
Speaking to Norwich City’s official website following his arrival, Hugill said: “For me, the aim is to get this club back to where they want to be and for me to prove a point. I’m a big, physical presence who will batter a defender around, so quite old school, but I’m also a very powerful striker who can get in the box and on the end of things.”
Such words led to him becoming a cult hero almost immediately with the City faithful, and it was clear why the early comparisons to Holt were made, but Hugill is his own man. To have those comparisons and expectations thrust on his shoulders from the beginning was a big ask, particularly when Holt didn’t have a former Championship Golden Boot winner in Teemu Pukki to compete with.
Hugill began well with a goal against Dynamo Dresden in a friendly win and was given the chance to impress in the disappointing League Cup defeat against Luton Town, a match that saw Norwich have over half the squad unavailable due to international call-ups.
That day, Hugill endured a frustrating competitive debut as his new side failed to provide him with the right service as City lost 3-1. Since then, Hugill has had limited minutes to impress in the three Championship games since.
Hugill was an unused substitute as Norwich beat Huddersfield in the season opener, with Adam Idah coming on instead to grab the headlines and get the match-winning goal. This in itself was a big call as Daniel Farke looked to the youngster to provide a spark rather than a proven and established Championship goalscorer sitting on the bench.
In the next game and with Norwich trailing 2-1 and needing a goal, Idah was again preferred, coming on in the 63rd minute to help the Canaries draw 2-2 with Preston.
However, on this occasion, Hugill did manage to step foot on the pitch but was introduced in the 89th minute and had little time to influence the game.
In last Sunday’s defeat in Bournemouth, Hugill got just nine minutes of normal time to influence proceedings.
With just 10 minutes of normal time spread across three Championship matches, it’s been tough for Hugill to make an impact.
The club invested a considerable amount of money in the 28-year-old and I felt he was signed with the future and form of Pukki still in question. However, with Pukki seemingly set to stay at the club and with a goal and an assist in the opening two matches, in addition to Idah’s pace and versatility, Farke looks set to keep faith with Pukki as his main man, leaving Hugill to ponder how he breaks into the first XI.
I find the situation curiously similar to City’s last Championship campaign when another Jordan, this one Rhodes, was signed for the first-team on a season-long loan from Sheffield Wednesday.
However, due to the form of Pukki, he was removed early on in the campaign and was unable to reclaim a starting spot. His role for the rest of the season was primarily from the bench late on, starting just nine games, coming on as a substitute in 27 matches and being left unused on the bench in the other eight (missing just two against his parent club Sheffield Wednesday).
My worry is that Hugill will experience a similar fate and be left to brief cameo appearances from the bench.
At 28, Hugill is in the prime years of his career and needs a club where he is regarded as the main man. Having got his fingers burnt in a £10 million move to West Ham that saw him feature in just 20 minutes of Premier League football in January 2018, he rediscovered his form with 13 Championship goals last season as QPR played to his strengths during a season-long loan.
For Hugill to work at Norwich City, he needs games and for the team to adopt an approach that will suit him. I find it hard to believe that while Pukki is in situ that Hugill will get that opportunity.
With the club having endured a rather underwhelming start to the season with a win, draw and a defeat, we know what Pukki can do. Now please Daniel, let’s try a Plan B.