A Ruddy good coup for Norwich City boss Neil Adams
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
There is often a foundation on which decent football teams are borne.
A manager will sometimes look at one player and make him the focal point for the way his team plays – it's a tactic I have always believed to be fraught with danger, given that Mr Centre of Attention isn't always going to be in top form and, if he finds himself dropped, it's time to hastily put together Plan B.
Sometimes it isn't quite as obvious who is the cornerstone. In fact, it can be a far from deliberate act, but just as telling.
In the case of Norwich City, there is one player whose presence at the club and on the field of play can have an effect without him even touching the ball. In fact, the less time he touches it the better.
When City were relegated, John Ruddy could have been forgiven for wanting out. A top quality keeper whose place in the England World Cup quad was only denied by a monstrosity of a decision by Roy Hodgson, Ruddy wouldn't have lacked suitors.
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He wasn't the only international player in the squad, but I'd suggest he is the best, a player whose standing among his peers ranks higher than others.
Yet, unless I missed it, I don't recall there being a single uttering from the Ruddy camp about moving on. Never was it suggested that Championship football wasn't for him. Never was it suggested that he would have to think about his future. Never was it suggested he was unhappy.
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Keeping Ruddy gave Neil Adams a terrific start to his planning for the season, not just because of the quality the man possesses, but because of the message it sends out to current players and, perhaps, possible future players. If Ruddy wants to play for Norwich, why shouldn't they?
If a club can keep a player of that stature, then something must be right, and while I don't subscribe to the theory that all footballers are stupid, I do believe an awful lot of what happens on a football pitch is down to things that happen between the ears.
If a player walks on to a pitch with a sense that all is working properly around him, then he will be more confident about doing his job – and, usually, success is easier to come by.
And if that success does come, the fans will be happy: witness the chants of 'We've got our Norwich back' at Brentford on Tuesday.
To create that well-being is the skill. And to have John Ruddy in the thick of it was an excellent coup.
'Clark's one of the best'
Whilst covering Norwich City for this newspaper, there was time to compile a mental dossier of managers, and the way they reacted with the media.
There were some who would rather have been anywhere than a press conference - Dave Jones and Tony Pulis come to mind. Then there were others for whom nothing was any problem - Russell Slade was superb. Roy Keane was a bit frightening, truth be told.
Then there are the 'old boys'. Paul Lambert blanked me at Villa Park, which was quite amusing - his loss, not mine.
But Aidy Boothroyd and Malky Mackay were always good value, as is today's visitor to Carrow Road, Lee Clark, who makes a point of seeking out and shaking the hands of familiar faces.
Not sure his old City boss, Glenn Roeder, would be quite as welcoming.
'Roy of the Rovers stuff'
There were a couple of twists at Aston Villa this week befitting the nearby Spaghetti Junction.
Having suffered a couple of less-than-average seasons in charge, Paul Lambert has been given a new contract, which ties him to Villa Park until June, 2018 – not that such dates have been a major factor in his thinking.
Lambert gets the deal on the back of a terrific unbeaten start to the season for Villa, who are second behind Chelsea after three wins and a draw.
Perhaps an even bigger turnaround than Villa's fortunes, has been the re-emergence of full-back Alan Hutton who, after two years without playing, has signed a three-year deal, having played in all four games this season. The reason he had been out in the cold was due to financial constraints. Hmm.
Hutton hasn't changed much – witness the way he scythed through Liverpool's Raheem Sterling on the opening day. Maybe it's the influence of Roy Keane – on both of them.