Reports linking Jordan Hugill with Chris Hughton’s Nottingham Forest recently emerged, so, after an interesting first campaign at Carrow Road, should City sell their number 9 or bring him along for the Premier League ride?
It was a curious 2020/21 for the 29-year-old, whose dressing room presence was the defining feature of his season. Stuart Webber has been clear that character and culture are key parts of his setup, and will therefore be pleased with his acquisition on that front, but five Championship goals is a disappointing return for any potentially £5million striker.
That City spent so much on a man whose best tally before his acquisition was 13 league goals had always been a bone of contention. Webber was clearly a big fan of the Teessider, but how he would fit into Daniel Farke’s setup was a key query, and one that remains unanswered now.
Barring Hugill’s impressive ‘classic number 9’ performance against Bristol City and his swashbuckling dragging of City over the line at the New York Stadium, there have been few occasions when he’s looked like anything but a square peg in a round hole.
There was Cardiff, when he flitted between useful, intriguing new option and poor finisher; he also proved excellent at Grant Holt-esque game management, but the ability to see games out from a winning position will surely be required less routinely in the top flight.
The Hugill deal enhanced Webber’s reputation as a strong negotiator and a spotter of bargains. That the Welshman was able to acquire a player previously bought for around £10million for a starting fee of £2.7million was impressive in itself.
That logic is perhaps now less clear-cut. A year older and at a club clearly happy to boost their transfer budget by shedding some unwanted squad timber, Hugill would surely cost Forest less than he cost Norwich. Webber, a man keen on profit, improvement and the extraction of maximum value, would surely feel uncomfortable selling at a loss quite so quickly.
But the club is open to the possibility of a sale. While ‘Air Jordan’ is not one of the players the Canaries are keen to get off their books, if the right offer comes in he may well be given the option to leave. Whether he takes that option, forgoing the Premier League opportunity he’s waited so long for, is another matter.
Hugill’s departure would feel harsh, especially given his latest attempts to get under Jacob Sorensen’s skin, further endearing himself to the City support in the process.
It would however be another opportunity to demonstrate the club’s more clinical, less sentimental approach, but it’s worth considering the potential effect on the morale of the squad. Several ex-players spoke of the divided and frustrated mood following Bradley Johnson’s departure in 2015, a move that acted as the perfect killer of City’s early momentum that season. Given Hugill’s dressing room standing, this could have a similar ring to it.
Hugill is also the second most experienced striker in the Norwich ranks. Adam Idah is viewed as a potential surprise package within the Colney walls, but severe injury problems hampered his Championship season and beyond that, a few cameos in a struggling side are all there is to look back on.
At worst Hugill is a willing runner, at best an option that absolutely no side will be prepared for when they take to the Carrow Road pitch. It could be that, in actual fact, the ex-Queens Park Rangers loanee is the most surprising package of all.
So, do City take their surprise package into the Premier League, with the guarantee that he’ll add to their dressing room, or do they continue to prune the squad to their trim target, bringing in some extra capital in the process?
The decision is Webber’s, and it will be an interesting one.