Thanks for the memories but it is now all about a bright future for Norwich City
- Credit: EDP pics © 2011(01603) 772434
Simeon Jackson's legacy may be as great as any former Norwich City player in the club's proud history.
The Canadian will forever be indelibly linked with the glorious chapter that culminated on a balmy night at Fratton Park when his flying dismount sealed promotion to the Premier League.
Jackson's scrambled stoppage time winner to sink Derby the previous week triggered a crescendo of noise that must have tested the structural foundations of Carrow Road. His hat-trick on that Easter Monday not only wrestled Norwich's destiny back into their own hands, but given Cardiff's implosion inflicted a damaging psychological blow on the Bluebirds.
Without Jackson's goalscoring exploits over those final weeks of the 2011 campaign you hardly need the benefit of hindsight to state the club's Premier League journey may well have taken a different course. The Championship appears an increasingly difficult league to exit in an upwardly mobile direction; Cardiff's eventual success after serial failure is a graphic illustration. The fantastic achievement of Chris Hughton and his squad to retain their elevated status over the last few weeks and the renewed uplift on the club's balance sheet carries huge transformative potential. Jackson repaid his £600,000 transfer free from Gillingham many times over – that would have been true if he had never pulled on a Norwich shirt again after his stooping header on the south coast.
The 26-year-old, one suspects, should have no shortage of takers at the top end of the Championship should he see the next phase of his career in this country. He was a prolific marksman in the lower leagues and armed with the experiences of the past two seasons would be an asset to any aspirant seeking to emulate the Canaries.
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But the Canadian's pivotal role in Norwich's recent timeline may have inadvertently stunted his own personal development. Jackson was never quite able to establish himself as a regular starter in the Premier League, as both Hughton and his predecessor opted to use him predominantly in an impact role from the bench. In making the great leap forward, the Canaries had to play catch up on and off the pitch.
The consecutive promotions and the managerial change last summer were all seismic events buffeting a core of players who first came together in the lower reaches of League One. Jackson and the other nine players released by the club earlier this week are perhaps collateral damage during a break neck period of evolution. City need to refresh the playing squad to compete with rivals who will do the same over this close season; if they opt to stand still at such a rarefied level of the game they implicitly risk a return to the Football League.
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Jackson is guaranteed a reception that befits the deep impression he left in these parts on his first return to Carrow Road, but there can be little room for sentiment. Chris Martin and fellow academy graduates such as Korey Smith, George Francomb and Tom Adeyemi all emerged through the ranks.
They will have had that affinity and bond with the paying public who retain a special affection for home produced talent, but the Canaries' ambitious academy plans underline the thrust now is to produce Premier League footballers of the future for Norwich City.
Everything the club attempts on and off the field must be filtered through the Premier League standard. If top flight longevity and sustainability remain the mission statement then there will be inevitable periods of flux. You can only wish those who departed this week the very best. They left the club in a stronger state then when they first arrived. None more so than the predatory Jackson.