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Friday, August 31, 2012
It occurred to me yesterday that I have spent an inordinate amount of time on two subjects which, at this stage of a football season, rarely bother me – the League Cup and transfer deadline day.
Norwich City’s tradition, remarkably well upheld over the years, of withdrawing its interest in the League Cup before its gets interesting, has left me only to applaud the bravery of the sponsors who take on the challenge of attracting the interest of clubs who have much, much bigger fish to fry.
Most of us have memories of City’s League Cup adventures. I spent a terrible night at Northampton Town in 2003 when City went out at the first hurdle – fortunately I hadn’t witnessed the efforts of 2001 and 2002, when Brentford and Cheltenham respectively were their conquerors.
There have been a few attempts to kick-start a run – in 2006 City got to a third opponent before bowing out and a year later fought bravely at Manchester City before a single goal did for them.
The most curious was in 2009, when City produced a swing of which Jon Snow would be envious when they followed the 7-1 home defeat by Colchester with a 4-0 win at Yeovil – Bryan Gunn’s last hurrah.
The most humiliating was the 4-0 reverse last season at home to MK Dons. Dreadful.
Which is why this week’s win in the Capital One Connect Cup – the competition with the silly-sounding abbreviation – against Scunthorpe was something of a relief, given that it brought Chris Hughton his first win as Norwich manager and proved that there is a quite a depth to his current squad. Hughton was reluctant to call it a second string XI, which is fair enough, given that almost all of the players who featured do actually play a part in the first team squad.
Dividing players into first and second groups doesn’t work.
While the Cup holds an interest, the long term will be more dependant on what happens before the transfer window closes at 11pm.
It’s not all that often that players arrive on the final day of the window – Hughton’s predecessor was pretty quick off the mark, bedding players in sharpish. Hughton has had to readjust his stance a little over the summer, but it has been quite refreshing to see how he has gone about his business.
In recent years I might have laughed off the suggestion that an overseas player was on his way to Carrow Road, but now it seems a little more feasible.
Foreigners have not only to settle into a new club, but a new country as well. If they are not strong of mind it can be daunting: poor old David Strihavka didn’t stand an earthly. I remember when he was unveiled to the media – and we left the room afterwards wondering why on earth Peter Grant had put him in such a difficult position. We could hardly understand a word he said. And Strihavka’s English wasn’t very good either.
But I digress: the prices that clubs are demanding for domestic players and the willingness of some clubs to pay them hasn’t helped those who prefer not to squander their cash. Shopping overseas is less expensive, but more risky.
I quite like what Hughton has done so far: I thought Sebastien Bassong looked the part last weekend and, with further games will improve: he’s big and strong and has some class. Also, he isn’t on his way down the footballing ladder – there is better to come. Robert Snodgrass will mature and be as good as Jonny Howson, who looks terrific.
Javier Garrido’s debut was as good as you could ask for as well and I am looking forward to seeing Alexander Tettey.
Strange how some people – like the radio station caller who expounded such tripe last weekend – believe foreign imports are a waste of time. I refer you to such luminaries as Alan Gow, David Mooney, Chris Brown, Ian Murray, Simon Whaley etc etc. Domestic products, all of them.
The art of signing the right person, for the right price, and then getting the right results out of them, is truly difficult. Which is why the current transfer window has proved so interesting.
If you want to follow the ins and outs of the final day, log on to www.pinkun.com/deadline, where we will try and keep up with it all.