Spring Cleaning

It’s rapidly approaching the end of the season and the time for a good clear out. Get the duster out, remove all the cobwebs and get ready to come back fresh and start the madness again during pre-season. I’ve looked before at players who are out of contract might stay and might go, but there are plenty of other Norwich players who could move on over the summer, so let’s take a look at them.

Loan’ly Youths

Chris Martin, 23, on loan at Crystal Palace.

Martin usually provokes a debate among Norwich fans. At the start of the season things looked promising for him. He was a surprise selection and started 3 games making 1 appearance from the bench. I don’t think he did badly in any of the games he played, his link-up play is decent and he certainly has ability. Had he grabbed himself a goal then perhaps things could have taken off for him, but it didn’t happen. He probably suffered from playing in the shadow of Holt and his tendency to occupy similar positions didn’t help, neither did his comparatively low work-rate. Whereas Simeon Jackson always offered something different Martin was too much like what we had already, just not as good.

In the couple of games I’ve seen Martin play at Palace he’s looked very much at home. He’s well capable of playing in the Championship and has often been deployed in a slightly deeper position and seems to have improved his all round game. He’s bagged a few goals including a couple of quality strikes from distance and in the games I saw he took most of the attacking set-pieces, by all accounts he’s become a valuable member of the Palace side.

So should he stay or should he go?

Go for me. I think he’s a good player and has a lot to offer a Championship team. I think if he plays regularly in the Championship he can still improve as a footballer but perhaps not quite to the level many Norwich fans once hoped he might reach. If he were to stay I don’t think he’d feature much and although sending him out on loan again is an option I think that he could now command a transfer fee that would be significant enough to reinvest in an area of the team where we aren’t blessed with as much strength.

Korey Smith, 21, on loan at Barnsley.

I love Korey Smith’s industry. He isn’t a player you could ever accuse of not working for the team. There were times during our League One season where I felt we really missed him when he was absent from the side. He puts in the hard yards and that has a positive effect on the players around him. He never really got a look in this season, with numerous new midfield signings and a mystery injury, going out on loan was always likely.

I’ve only seen him play once for Barsnley but in that game he was excellent, the work-rate was there but he also showed real quality in setting up a goal. He made a fantastic start but his impacted has perhaps faded a little since then. He looks at home in the Championship and at 21 I still think there is a lot more to come from him.

So should he stay or should he go?

Stay, although probably another season of loan football to continue his education wouldn’t go amiss. At the end of next season I think his future will be a lot clearer, if he can continue to make progress then he can definitely play a role in the squad. Having said that should things go horribly wrong from him next season I still think he’ll be given another year to prove himself. Of course there is always the possibility that Norwich could get relegated next season, if that were to happen Smith could quickly find himself back in the starting eleven.

George Francomb, 20, on loan at Hibernian.

I’ll be honest, I’ve not seen Francomb play at all at Hibernian, I love football but my desire to watch games from Scotland really isn’t that strong. The only time I’ve really had a look at him was in the home defeat by Dereham Town in the Norfolk Senior Cup. In that game he was horribly embarrassed by Dereham forward Kyle Downes who out-muscled and out-paced the Norwich centre-back pairing of Francomb and Sam Habergham to open the scoring. He’s at least the third choice right-back, having spent sometime on loan at Barnet last season he moved north of the boarder looking for more games this season having not featured for the first team.

So should he stay or should he go?

Stay. With Kyle Naughton’s seemingly inevitable return to Spurs we’re definitely in the market for a right-back. It’s perhaps unfair to judge Francomb without watching him but I seriously doubt we’ll go into next season with him as back-up to Russell Martin and I’d expect us to make a move for another right-back in the summer. At 20 years old he’s made regular starts for Hibs this season, so he’s obviously got promise, another season out on loan seems likely.

Josh Dawkin, 20, on loan at Cambridge United.

Dawkin has had almost no involvement in the first team. I’ve seen him play in a reserve game and he did little to inspire me. It’s harsh but at the level Norwich have reached in such a short space of time young players who really don’t look like breaking into the first team squad probably aren’t going to be around for long. At 20 years old he needs to find a way to make an impact or secure a loan move to a much higher standard of football in order to convince me he’s worth keeping hold of.

So should he stay or should he go?

Go. Realistically I can’t see him ever breaking into the first team, perhaps I’m being overly pessimistic and were he to read this I’m sure he’d be the first to say that my opinion couldn’t possibly matter less to him. But Lambert isn’t the kind of manager to show sentimentality and with better youth prospects coming through behind him I expect him to move on.

Tom Adeyemi, 20, on loan at Oldham Athletic. 

Adeyemi has now returned from his loan spell, having acquitted himself admirably while he was away. He’s not featured for the first team this season, but he’s certainly got a future at the club. I saw him play twice for Oldham, once he was the victim of an unfortunate incident at Anfield, doing nothing to improve my opinion of a club who have in my eyes fallen from grace this season. The other game was a cold wet night in League One against Carlisle where he battled hard for his side, showing plenty of drive and determination.

So should he stay or should he go?

Stay. He’s got all the raw attributes you’d want for a footballer. Next season I’d fully expect to see him on loan at a Championship club and if he continues to work hard on his game I can see a time in the future where he is playing in the Premier League for Norwich. Nothing is yet certain, but he’s certainly done very well so far in his footballing career and if he continues to conduct himself with the same amount of intelligence on and off the pitch I can only see a future full of positives.

Say goodbye to some Stalwarts

Simon Lappin, 29.

Lappin is a great professional, long live the King of Spain. You never hear stories about him moaning, when he comes into the team he always puts in a display to the best of his ability and he is happy to play in a number of roles for the team. It’s no wonder that Lambert has kept him around when others have been moved on. Having said that, he has only featured twice this season, both times as a surprise starter but on neither occasion did he complete 90 minutes.

So should he stay or should he go?

Go. I think Lappin is an interesting call, you could keep him around the squad but regardless of how professional a player he may be nobody can stay happy at not getting minutes on the pitch forever. Even with the prolonged absence of Mark Tierney, Lappin has still found his chances limited and I expect him to move on as Lambert looks to free up wages and freshen up the squad, still his service to the club should be celebrated. During one of the most testing spells in the club’s history Lappin put in many a good performance and that certainly won’t be quickly forgotten by this Norwich City fan.

Andrew Crofts, 27. 

Make or break time for Crofts I think. He’s unlucky in so much as I think he’s been a victim of the club’s rapid rise and instant success. An absolute hero in our promotion winning season in the Championship, Crofts has struggled with Premier League football. He certainly wouldn’t have been the first player I’d have looked at when talking about who would struggle to make the step up, given his performances for the Welsh national side. But every time I’ve watched him this season I’ve been unconvinced, he simply doesn’t have the all-round game to play at this level and the things he does do well are actually done better by other players in the squad who have more to offer.

So should he stay or should he go?

Go for me. I can’t see him wanting to stay to sit on the bench if he’s lucky, but if we were to sign another midfielder I think he’d regularly struggle to make the match day squad. He’s made 26 appearances this season which is a fair number, but 10 of those have been as a stop-gap from the bench and since the arrival of Howson I really don’t see a role for him in the team. I think there will be plenty of Championship clubs looking for a player like Crofts and I think we could make a tidy profit on him. At 27, if he were to get a move and a good contract that could see him through the peak of his career, so it’s a big decision, but if it was me, I’d try and move him on now.

Adam Drury, 33.

Drury has been excellent this year. Defensively he’s still an quality full-back and his experienced distribution from the left-hand side and link up play with Surman and Jackson when they’ve featured in the side together has impressed me no end. He’s been valuable this season given the long standing injury to Marc Tierney and he’s probably featured more than even he himself expected too. He’s been a fabulous servant to the club and is well worth his testimonial which I hope is well attended.

So should he stay or should he go?

Stay. I think he’s done enough to show he’s worth another year. He’s so reliable and so professional and I can’t imagine he has much interest in moving anywhere else, to me it makes sense to keep him on if he’s happy to keep playing. When Tierney returns to full fitness his role would certainly be backup but what a player to have, ready and waiting should the need arise.

Leon Barnett, 26.

It’s been a ridiculous season for Leon Barnett. At times he’s looked every inch a Premier League defender, at others he’s looked like a man who has only a very basic understanding of how football works. He’s made 13 starts this season, but none of them have been when every central defender was fit and available, as soon as that was the case he’s found himself way down the pecking order. His goal against Sunderland was a great moment, but sadly the game against Aston Villa was perhaps the worst individual performance by a Norwich player this season, there is something very much of the Titus Bramble about him.

So should he stay or should he go?

Go. It didn’t work for him at West Brom in the Premier League and it’s not worked out for him here either. He’s now behind Ward, Whitbread, Ayala and Bennett and although he’s capable of producing a commanding performance he’s also capable of kamikaze moments of catastrophic failure to the extent that I genuinely started to worry every time he was in possession. Sell him to a Championship club, hopefully at a profit and wish him the best of luck. Perhaps if he matures and cuts out the errors in his game he’ll come back to the Premier League and become the player we can all see is in there somewhere.

Aaron Wilbraham, 32. 

Where the hell did Wilbs come from? I really thought he was going to fall victim to our promotion and disappear off the face of the earth. But at some point in the season, he stopped being the lower-league-laughing-stock, horribly out of place in these new rich surroundings and became Wilbrahimovic, cult icon extraordinaire. On paper he really doesn’t look like much, but his performances at the end of this season have really added something to the team. Having impressed from the bench he got a start against Spurs and together with Holt destroyed Ledley King and Younes Kaboul, keeping his place in the side for the game against Man City.

Image courtesy of Tom Bullard

So should he stay or should he go?

Stay. He’s a player playing with confidence and doing a good job for the team. He offers something different and his ability to hold the ball up is always a good option to have. I don’t imagine he’s one of the best paid players at the club and I can’t see us getting much for him given his age. There are plenty of teams who would be happy to take him on loan but what’s the point? If he’s happy to stay and be a squad player I think he’s well worth keeping hold of.

Contracted Worries

There are a number of players out of contract and obviously should a hitch occur in any of their deals it moves the goal posts on the players I’ve written about. A player I’ve not mentioned so far is Steve Morison. I think he’s been excellent far more often than not for Norwich this season and the idea that he might be sold shows how reactionary some fans can be. The situation was not helped by rumours being circulated, sadly I fear that is what currently sits at the front of most fan’s mind’s when they think of him, not the impressive displays and goals he scored for us in the first part of the season.

Young Matt Ball may well be sent out on loan and a loan move for Declan Rudd or Jed Steer would also seem sensible. When I sit back and look at the squad yet again I’m amazed by how Lambert has improved it without losing the team spirit that has defined his reign in charge. Pilkington, Bennett, Howson and Johnson represent an entirely new midfield yet they already seem very much like Norwich city players. The additions of Ryan Bennett and Daniel Ayala look great for the future and we’ve really yet to see anything from James Vaughan who shows so much promise, perhaps a short loan move next season would do him some good.

If Paul Lambert continues to make smart moves in the transfer market in terms of acquisitions I’m genuinely excited about how strong the squad might look a year from now. The second season is notoriously tough, but with this manager and this group of players I’m not worried, if anything I’m optimistic, I’m looking forward to the next season with no real concerns, I’ve not felt this way about Norwich City in a very long time.

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One thought on “Spring Cleaning

  1. Pingback: The wonder of Wilbrahimovic | Canary Conspiracies

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