Friday, 11 September 2015

Rival Lines with The Pink' Un's Norwich City correspondent

Rival Lines
Match Preview
Norwich v AFCB
Interview: The Pink' Un
Twitter: @pinkun

Some of you may remember that last year we spoke to a reporter from the Pink' Un which does match reports and covers the news on Norwich City FC. Well I got back in contact with Paddy Davitt who is the local correspondent for the Pink' Un with Norwich City FC, so he's up on all the news on the Canaries and very knowledgeable on the players and the mood at Carrow Road. That being the case I dug quite deep to see what he could tell us - so there are lots of questions to be answered. Let's press on.

CC: Norwich had a great 2014/15 season but do you think going up by the play-offs put you at much of a disadvantage to Bournemouth and Watford who also came up?

PD: Normally you would say it does, given the play-off winning club have less time to plan and to prepare for the task of going into the Premier League. However, when Norwich went down 12 months earlier they made a conscious decision to retain the majority of that squad who had operated in the Premier League for the previous three seasons. That meant they still had the core of a set of players who know what the top flight was all about, in contrast perhaps to the two clubs who went up automatically who had little or no Premier League experience and had to address that over the summer.

CC: Neither Bournemouth or Norwich have kept a clean sheet yet but are you happy with your keeper and back four?

PD: John Ruddy’s season so far sums up how hit and miss the Canaries have been in terms of their defensive solidity. He really had little or nothing to do against Sunderland and Stoke City yet in both games Norwich were punished for slackness on set pieces. Against Crystal Palace and Southampton, prior to the international break, he was kept very busy and despite a string of saves was beaten three times in each of those games. Norwich’s vulnerability on set pieces reflects badly perhaps on the whole side rather than just the back four and against the Saints they had to play with 10 for an hour after an early sending off, so its probably hard to offer a definitive judgement at this early stage. That said, I think most fans would have expected a central defender to arrive in the transfer window and City were of course heavily touted with Steve Cook on deadline day.

CC: Alex Neil has said that Norwich is not a good proposition for some players to come to, but are you disappointed not to have landed Benik Afobe and Jon Walters in this last window?

PD: Neil made it clear he wanted to attract a striker and while City were knocked back with enquiries for both of those mentioned, plus the likes of Dwight Gayle and Glenn Murray, who ended up at the Cherries, they did seal a move for Dynamo Kiev frontman Dieurmerci Mbokani. The Congo international has played for Anderlecht, Wolfsburgand Monaco so clearly has the pedigree and looks to have the physical prowess that should suit the Premier League. I think the point Neil was making about the likes of Norwich, Bournemouth and Watford is trying to attract the level of top player who doesn’t fear in 12 months time they could be back in the Championship. That’s even before you get into the financial aspect of competing with clubs with much deeper resources.

CC: Do you think Cameron Jerome will be City's top scorer this season?

PD: Given the arrival of Mbokani he might struggle to get as much game time to repeat last season’s feat of finishing top scorer. Neil favours the one up top option and Jerome has already illustrated this season he can offer that threat from the bench. He should already have one Premier League goal to his name, but for a bizarre refereeing decision on the opening weekend when his bicycle kick ‘goal’ from close range against Palace was deemed to be dangerous play.

CC: Is the signing of Dieumerci Mbokami a big gamble in that respect or does his record at Dynamo Kiev make you think he will do fine at Norwich?

PD: Touched on it earlier and of course any time you bring a new player into English football there is going to be an element of calculated risk as to how well and how quickly they can adapt. Mbokani certainly fits the profile of the type of striker Neil wants in his side. You wouldn’t say he has a prolific goalscoring record if you look at his career to this point but if he can offer that presence in the penalty box Norwich lack then it could be good business.

CC: Are you surprised that Bradley Johnson moved to Derby in this latest transfer window?

PD: The timing of Johnson’s departure in the closing hour of deadline day was a huge surprise as there had been little or no speculation on his future. Allied to that, he was one of the key factors in the club’s return to the Premier League last season, which was recognised by the supporters who voted him their player-of-the-year after a career-best 15 goals in a season. But this time around he found himself out of the side in the opening weeks of the Premier League season and given the money Derby County offered you could say it was a win, win for both parties. First-choice left-back Martin Olsson is close to a return to the side after summer shoulder surgery, which in all probability will push big-money signing Robbie Brady further forward down the left flank and that would have limited Johnson’s game time even further.

CC: Alex Neil took a strong line with Lewis Grabban's recent AWOL incident and Lewis also found himself in trouble at the end of last season at Rotherham so have Norwich fans been disappointed with his actions?

PD: Given Bournemouth head to Carrow Road this weekend the crowd reaction towards him could be one of the most interesting sub-plots. That’s if Neil opts to bring him straight back in after his suspension. Personally, I think he might keep him out of the squad to avoid a circus, given Bournemouth’s public interest in the transfer market and Grabban’s actions around that Rotherham League Cup tie and the fallout since. As always with these types of episode, the full facts are unlikely ever to come out into the public domain but certainly it is fair to state Grabban has never really won over the majority of Norwich fans since his arrival from the Cherries in 2014.

CC: Who do you think are the best Premier League opponents that you have played in the four games and what player has impressed you most from one of those teams?

PD: Southampton were very good prior to the international break, albeit the man advantage made the result almost inevitable. Sadio Mane showed why he was touted with a move to Manchester United with his drive and willingness to cut inside from the right flank and cause Norwich all sorts of problems.

CC: Which of Norwich's summer signings have you been most pleased with?

PD: Robbie Brady was the stand out arrival Norwich made over the summer and that should prove shrewd business. Still only 23, Brady has already underlined his versatility deputising for Martin Olsson at left-back. By the Irishman’s own admission, he prefers to operate further forward and should get his wish when Olsson returns to first team action. Norwich fans have already seen glimpses of his quality on set pieces and there is no doubt he looks a top drawer operator.

CC: Alex Neil like Eddie Howe has a steep learning curve in the Premier League but Neil has proved to be a strong and determined manager - is that what Norwich have lacked for a while?

PD: The comparisons with Paul Lambert’s era are inevitable, given not only their Scottish roots, but that galvanising effect they both had on Norwich. Chris Hughton and Neil Adams were in charge between Lambert’s departure and Neil’s arrival and both were much more measured operators – certainly in how they carried themselves publicly. Neil showed again most recently in dealing with Grabban’s absence at Rotherham, both in his actions behind closed doors and what he said to the media, that there is only one man in charge. But if you speak to his players they have so much respect for his methods and the way he fostered a common sense of purpose which carried them to promotion barely five months after his arrival, so it would be wrong to assume Neil is a manager who operates with just the stick and not the carrot.

CC: Which three teams do you feel will be relegated from the Premier League in 2015/16?

PD: Having played Sunderland on Wearside and won 3-1, they have a huge job ahead in pulling off another escape act. If you look at it one, if not two, of the promoted clubs always historically find it tough to survive so Watford perhaps under new a manager and with a huge turnover of players may struggle. Aston Villa have found it tough going in recent seasons and despite an influx of new players they must be in the mix given the loss of some key players in the summer; notably Christian Benteke.

CC: Thank you Paddy for such in depth answers. I hope readers on Cherry Chimes learnt a few things about Norwich from that. I think most of us know we will have a hard game against the Saints in a few weeks time, so it not so surprising that Paddy was impressed with our near neighbours. But it's Norwich that we have to worry about for the moment. My feelings are that we might not see Lewis Grabban on Saturday. Still, I believe it will be a fiercely contested match and one that both sides will feel than can win.  Please check out the Pink' Un for the latest stories on Norwich FC.

Meanwhile, some of you may have missed the article on the AFC Bournemouth official website yesterday about our good friends of Cherry Chimes - BroomHill Garden Buildings who have renewed their sponsorship with the club. You can read about it on this link.

Also visit BroomHill Garden Buildings site by clicking here.

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