Norwich City’s players will always hold the key to progress
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
There was a common thread in Chris Hughton's public utterances around Norwich City's uplifting Premier League win at the Hawthorns.
Both during the build up and then the warm afterglow of a second top flight victory this season Hughton stressed the absolutely central role of his players.
No real surprise in that given it is those he entrusts to carry Norwich's colours into battle who will always define the club's fortunes, but after a maddeningly frustrating period and the inherent friction between Norwich's productive labours at Carrow Road and away from Norfolk it struck a chord.
Hughton made it clear at Colney prior to that trip to the West Midlands and with the rawness of events at Anfield still fresh in the memory the hardest part of the job is sifting through his resources to settle on a set of players who can carry out his battleplan.
Hughton alluded to the fact the club-record unbeaten Premier League run last season, which ground to a halt at the Hawthorns was forged on a remarkable consistency in his team selection.
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Michael Turner and Sebastien Bassong provided the ballast in the heart of City's defence. Russell Martin and Javier Garrido were the preferred full back options and ahead of them Alex Tettey and Bradley Johnson anchored a midfield and a formation that proved impressively resolute.
Contrast that approach with the turbulence that has buffeted Norwich's line up this season; partly due to the debilitating nature of a growing injury crisis but also a response to Hughton's search for a winning formula. Players performing to their optimum and picking up results, as happened in the most fertile period at this stage of last season, makes Hughton's task so much simpler.
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The Norwich manager has had to fire fight with each heavy away defeat instead of the less demanding task of nuanced changes to his line up to take account of each fresh opponent. Constant revisions are hardly the recipe for a consistency in results.
West Brom was a line in the sand; a win forged through adversity but building on that now against Swansea, Sunderland and Fulham prior to Manchester United's festive visit should not be beyond the scope of Hughton or his players. City would consider themselves worthy of comparison to all three rivals and as such it would be a major surprise if the Norwich manager elects to shuffle his pack for the Swans' visit.
Those he entrusted against the Baggies delivered. As Hughton himself stated the relatively quick turnaround between fresh humiliation on Merseyside and another away assignment at the Hawthorns limited the time for any detailed preparation; for which Hughton is famed. It really was down to the personal drive and collective will to respond of those who started against Albion and the reinforcements Hughton introduced in the second period.
City's boss knows the buck stops with him and the endless speculation centred on the volatility of Premier League management means the search for answers will always focus on the man in the dugout, but in reality it is his players who hold the key.