Norwich City have squad to challenge for automatic promotion spot

John Ruddy could be a vital cog in Norwich Citys bid for promotion.

John Ruddy could be a vital cog in Norwich Citys bid for promotion. - Credit: Stefano Gnech/Focus Images Ltd

Well the new season is nearly upon us, and I for one cannot wait.

I bet it's been a long old summer for the staff and the players at Norwich City having suffered relegation to the Championship at the end of last season.

It's happened to me in the past and, believe me, it takes a while for you to get it out of your system. Whatever happened last season is well and truly in the past, and now everyone has to focus on a successful season for this great club and get the Canaries back into the Premier League at the first time of asking.

All the physical pain and hard work has been done in order to get the players physically and mentally prepared for the very long season ahead.

Looking at the squad that Neil has at his disposal I expect Norwich City to be challenging for automatic promotion come the beginning of May. At the very least the club should be finishing in a play-off position.


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I look at the squad and for me it's as strong a collection of players as any other side in the Championship, but to be fair I'd say that about Cardiff City too. Up until now Neil has only lost Robert Snodgrass, which to be honest wasn't a bad bit of business with the club getting £7m for a player who could have left for nothing next summer. Mind you, I do expect Leroy Fer and Sebastien Bassong to follow Snodgrass and Ricky van Wolfswinkel through the exit door in the next couple of weeks.

It's great news that John Ruddy will still be in goal come Sunday as he is, along with David Marshall, the best goalkeeper in the division.

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After scoring just 28 goals last season Neil knew he had to bring more firepower into the attack and that's exactly what he's done, bringing in Kyle Lafferty and Lewis Grabban. They are both big powerful lads, and although Lafferty has lost his way a bit since he left Rangers, he will be hoping this move will revive his career.

Lewis had a terrific season last season at Bournemouth scoring 22 goals in 44 league appearances. If he can get close to that tally or even better it this season then the £3m fee will have been money well spent. His three goals in the club's last two friendlies will have done his confidence the world of good too.

Gary O'Neil was brought in this week after being released by newly-promoted QPR. Gary has got great experience and at 31 has a great deal to offer, providing Neil with another option in what is already a strong midfield.

I think Gary Hooper could have a big part to play this season if he's still at the club.

After a decent start to his Norwich career he struggled in the last few months, but I do believe that he could be a 20-goal a season striker in this division. If he's provided the service from the likes of Nathan Redmond, Wes Hoolahan, Josh Murphy and Elliott Bennett then he will score goals.

The Championship is a tough league to get out of. You need some flair to get out of this division, but more importantly you need battling qualities and heart, and I do think Norwich City have both.

You have the East Anglian derby to look forward to and you won't have to wait to long till you face the old enemy, as in two weeks you make the short journey down the A140 to face Mick McCarthy's men.

• I WASN'T THE DONKEY FANS THOUGHT

It's a tough start for the Canaries with some tricky fixtures in the opening few weeks, none more difficult than the opening game tomorrow against newly-promoted Wolves.

Kenny Jackett has done a fantastic job at my former club having suffered back-to-back relegations, and he and the Wolves fans will be looking for back-to-back promotions having won League One comfortably last season. They go into this campaign with great momentum, and I think Wolves will be in the mix come the end of the season.

Sunday's game promises to be an absolute cracker between two of my former clubs, and there won't be an empty seat at Molineux which will make it a great atmosphere for the lads to go and play in.

I used to love the opening game of a new season, as it's what you've worked so hard for over the past two months.

Of course the hard work is only just beginning but as a player you know you've done your utmost in pre-season to give yourself the best chance possible of achieving your ambitions and goals.

I remember the opening game of the season 17 years ago, one that I was really looking forward to, as it was my debut for the Canaries. Funnily enough it was against today's opponents Wolverhampton Wanderers, the club I'd left to join Norwich a few week earlier. If memory serves me correctly a certain Neil Adams occupied the right hand side for us that afternoon.

It was a red-hot day as it normally is on that opening weekend, and I have to say it was a game and a debut to forget.

I had a shocker in the heat and I bet all you Norwich fans left that day thinking 'why on earth have we paid £850,000 for that donkey!'

We lost that day to two goals by Robbie Keane, a teenager who was making his debut for Wolves.

It wasn't the start we had envisaged, and it certainly wasn't the start that I'd hoped to have in the yellow shirt.

But I guess as poor as I was it was only one game, and I'd like to think that over the next few years that the £850,000 Mike Walker forked out for my services wasn't a complete waste of money.

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