Norwich City’s international bright young things enjoy the perfect round
Played 16, won 11, lost one – and that was a friendly. It’s a record anyone would take, and it’s hard to think of an international break where things have gone much better for a Norwich City international task force; this time numbering nine.
Although that said, the players sometimes have the perfect conditioning with their club to deal with the international demands about to be placed on them.
“It is probably going to be one of those games where they just park the bus and stick most of their players behind the ball…so it is going to be difficult for us to break them down. We’ll be going in there hoping to play some good stuff and attacking them straight away. Hopefully we can get an early goal, which would settle everything and help us play better.”
That was Wes Hoolahan talking before the Republic of Ireland hosted international minnows – assuming there isn’t a lower tier than that? – Gibraltar.
No doubt 180 minutes against Charlton and Rotherham United helped prepare the little Irishman for that challenge in Dublin, as much as training sessions with Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane.
In fact, during City’s pre-match press duties on Thursday afternoon City’s Scottish international Russell Martin almost had a glint in his eye at the realisation their final Euro 2016 qualifying game was away to Gibraltar and he is yet to score an international goal.
Such joys over the last 10 days should have an impact on club fortunes too – it certainly felt like there was a spring in everyone’s step at Colney ahead of their trip to Craven Cottage.
The clamour for Kyle Lafferty to be given another shot as a central striker has been hard to ignore since he gave Faroe Islands and Greece the runaround.
And of course, the international break was kicked off with the continued discussion about Wes – his berth on the left without the ball and roaming role with it.
“It’s a more defensive role there as you’re getting up and down to help out the left back and keeping the midfield shape as a four,” added Hoolahan, while on international duty.
“It’s nice playing in the hole but it’s all the same really as you can come inside. If I’m playing in the hole I know I have to get in positions where I can receive the ball on the turn and bring others into the game.
“Sometimes it is harder when teams come and put five men in midfield. Wherever I’m playing on the pitch I look for pockets where I can find space.”
I’m actually hoping it’s Norwich who put five men in midfield on Saturday – especially with the midfielders at Neil Adams’ disposal this season.
And given Wes Hoolahan – along with a clutch of other City players – had an inspiring time away with their national sides, you’d like to think Norwich will reap some benefits from that international win haul.
• JUST SAYING…
• There was a time last season when I was so convinced Fulham would survive, it seemed like missing out on a trip to Craven Cottage for at least 12 months would be a genuine silver lining for Norwich City.
That’s no comment on the set-up at Fulham, by the way – it is a great place to visit. But ever since the Cottagers appeared to buy their ticket from the third tier to the Premier League and European football, they have had the upper hand over City – a team trying to do things without ever being bankrolled.
It’s more than about time City won that battle of ideologies – even if I am predicting a draw…
• A quick note: For all we talk on the inside about how good and special Norwich City Football Club is, getting 10,000 supporters into the ground for a televised Under-21 Premier League fixture – off the back of the club’s crowds for their 2013 FA Youth Cup run – really does mark out the Canaries as something special.
Something which every fan of the club should be immensely proud.
• Follow Michael Bailey on Twitter @michaeljbailey