Big time Charlie could make the difference for Norwich City

Cameron Jerome rues a missed chance during Norwich City's 1-1 draw with Stoke. Picture by Paul Chest

Cameron Jerome rues a missed chance during Norwich City's 1-1 draw with Stoke. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

There will be times this season when taking a point from a game will feel like all three. Saturday's draw with Stoke was at the other end of the scale.

On a day when Norwich were linked with Charlie Austin, last season's fourth highest top flight goalscorer, it was their inability to convert chances that prevented City from a second consecutive Premier League victory.

It took an inspired performance from Jack Butland to deny what could have been a comfortable win, but as impressive as Butland's display was, City's easiest opportunities didn't require any intervention from the England understudy.

Wes Hoolahan should have capped another superb display with a goal but his header somehow went wide of the far post, while Jonny Howson's pinpoint through ball deserved a better fate than to be placed wide by Cameron Jerome upon seeing the whites of Butland's eyes.

In Jerome, City have a striker who leads the line well. His hold-up play again on Saturday was almost faultless. But his top-flight record isn't one that suggests he's a clinical finisher at this level.


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In early summer, the possibility of signing Austin, scorer of 18 goals last term, would have been a distant dream for City fans as he was being linked with several other Premier League teams. But failure to match his club's reported £15m asking price means the prolific striker is, remarkably, still available.

Norwich haven't spent big in this transfer window. That in itself is not a concern. Two years ago, City did so and were relegated. What Alex Neil has done is spend wisely within the domestic market.

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With every game he plays it becomes more difficult to see why West Brom were so keen to offload Graham Dorrans and on the basis of what we've seen so far Youssouf Mulumbu will be an asset next to him. Robbie Brady gives City much needed width on the left flank, even if he is slightly restricted in coming forward while deputising for Martin Olsson at full-back.

The club is in a healthy financial position, boosted by the tens of millions in TV revenue money that comes with Premier League status, which is set to more than double if we avoid relegation. With Austin available, is it really that much of a gamble to meet QPR's asking price?

The £8.5m spent on Ricky van Wolfswinkel serves as a constant reminder that not every big money signing pays off. But Austin's record of a goal every other game in a team that finished rock bottom is surely much sounder evidence that buying him would not be too great a gamble. Imagine what he could do in a team creating as many chances as City have in the opening three matches.

At 26, Austin would not be a short-term investment either. If his goals keep Norwich in the league, then at that price he would be an absolute bargain. Alex Neil is intent on bringing a striker to the club, and it's hard to believe Austin isn't top of his wish list.

It's easy to draw parallels with the current situation and the one Norwich found themselves in 10 years ago, when after struggling for goals they broke the transfer record to bring in Dean Ashton in the January window. Unfortunately by then it was too late to save our season. Had that acquisition been made in the summer instead the outcome could have been very different.

Austin of course may have his own ideas about where his future lies, but it won't cost us anything to at least ask the question.

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