Rest John Ruddy? Yes. But not just because of his recent Norwich City struggles
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
'Why have you not looked at our goal-keeper?' That was the question posed to me this week by reader Peter Barrows who thinks it's time John Ruddy was given a spell on the bench - and has clearly felt that way for some time.
The answer is a simple one, Mr Barrows. I honestly haven't felt there's been a need to question his place between the sticks for the Canaries. Until now that is.
When flying high under Alex Neil during the second half of last season it wasn't an issue that needed to be addressed.
Ruddy was one of the best keepers in the division in a team on the up. He has his weaknesses, like most players, not just those occupying the goal, but why would you have changed it at that moment in time?
This season it's been a different story of course and closer scrutiny has been placed on a back five which has all too regularly leaked goals.
You may also want to watch:
So it was with that in mind I spent an hour of my Monday evening watching back the highlights of City's 11 league games so far.
Forgetting the keeper issue for a moment, that exercise brought home at least one of the differences between Norwich of the first few games and that of recent weeks.
- 1 Roads flooded on east coast after heavy rain
- 2 Two Norfolk villages named among most beautiful to visit in England
- 3 Man put hidden camera in bedroom to spy on wife
- 4 Driver taken to hospital after four-car crash on key road into Norwich
- 5 Man in critical condition after being stabbed in Thetford
- 6 Machinery sale marks end of family's 100-year farming history
- 7 Robbers knock out boy, 14, and steal trainers from his feet
- 8 Unlikely new use for city's Samson and Hercules building
- 9 'Pray for Paul today' - wife's plea as gallbladder op victim faces surgery
- 10 Woman taken to hospital following crash on A146
Confidence high, the ball zipping around and players playing without fear of failure; those early-season games look, and feel, as distant a memory as the summer sunshine which shone over them.
In recent weeks, as confidence has taken a hit, the passing has at times become ponderous and plodding and less direct and effective. I have everything crossed that will be put right in this weekend's vital game.
Meanwhile, in terms of Ruddy, I am still not sure there was a real need to question his place in the very early parts of the season and on the evidence of those first few weeks.
While I know it's not the only thing to judge him on, of those first five games there was only one goal the 29-year-old could arguably have been expected to have stopped.
That was the very first goal against Palace, low down, which is Ruddy's weakness, and he couldn't get to it.
But it's the last six games where the landscape has undoubtedly changed somewhat. In stark contrast, I'd say five of the goals City have conceded could have been prevented by our number one.
The weak punch for the second versus West Ham, two of the goals against Newcastle, again shots that were low down, and both against Manchester City last weekend.
But that said, the decision about whether he starts against Swansea on Saturday doesn't just come down to the form or confidence of the current occupant.
I have enough faith that were Ruddy selected, he could be trusted to put things right. But what is more important is that in Declan Rudd we have a keeper who is also good enough to play at this level.
And if that is the case, Rudd should start on Saturday versus Swansea and not Ruddy. The competition is healthy, can improve standards and every club at this level should have at least two players in every position good enough to do a job. As long as Alex Neil deals with that situation effectively, such a move doesn't need to be seen as a morale-denting drop, simply giving the other great keeper a chance for a while.
If Rudd isn't seen as good enough, you have to question why we've gone into a Premier League season without proper cover in centre back and goalkeeping positions. I have my own concerns about Rudd, in particular his size and lack of presence, but in public Neil appears to rate him, saying after the Everton cup game he was pushing for a place. We'll find out on Saturday if he truly meant it.
Get behind the team on Saturday
1: This Saturday versus Swansea is exactly the sort of game where the fans realise how important a win is and get more twitchy than usual when things aren't quite going right, which then rubs off on the players and affects their performance. I know the argument goes that the players should get the supporters going, but please can we make it the other way around this weekend and get behind our team?
Hooper was just a man out of time
2: Of all the signings in recent seasons, that of Gary Hooper from Celtic was the one about which I was the most genuinely excited. I honestly thought he would go on to score as many goals as Grant Holt in Norwich colours. Clearly there have been a variety of reasons why it hasn't quite worked out, but on the whole I think he's been a man out of time with the way City have played in the past few years. One up top simply doesn't suit his style.
Big mouth strikes again for Canaries
3: I get the distinct impression Kyle Lafferty's biggest mistake in recent weeks was to come out and imply he might need a move in January to seek first team football. Alex Neil doesn't strike me as the sort of manager to tolerate such public statements and lo and behold Lafferty has promptly gone back off the radar a bit. It's a shame as I think he's a versatile option always worth having on the bench.
Plenty of loans for City to manage
4: It's quite staggering to think that Norwich City have some 14 players out on loan at the minute, several of them very recognisable names. I guess this is partly the result of there being no reserve team football any more, as in the past there would have been a chance to give those players a regular run-out in competitive games. At least we know Neil Adams is being kept busy, doing whatever it is a 'loans manager' does.