Cloak and dagger transfer games reveal Alex Neil’s thinking at Norwich City
- Credit: PA
The dramatic cloak and dagger nature of the final throes of the transfer window trading guarantee much of Norwich City's manoeuvres will remain discreet. But there were still plenty of clues as to Alex Neil's thinking and his assessment of the personnel he inherited.
A return to his old club for Hamilton's stand out creative influence in Tony Andreu coupled with a doomed move for West Brom's Graham Dorrans says much about where Neil felt he may need to strengthen for the decisive part of the Championship season.
Both are cut from the same cloth; two intelligent, progressive midfielders capable of scoring goals. Look around Norwich's plentiful midfield stocks and perhaps only Jonny Howson carries that same residual threat in the opposition penalty area.
Andreu has to prove he can cut it in swapping a diluted Scottish top flight for the hustle and bustle of the English second tier but he has all the cultured credentials to fit into Neil's plans. Dorrans' pedigree was well known given his prolonged stint in the Premier League.
Neil set-up Norwich at Birmingham last weekend with two predominantly holding midfielders and a trio in front to support a lone frontman in Lewis Grabban. If that is a sign of things to come under the Scot then he will need goals from the flanks and central areas in addition to a strikeforce now nominally shorn of Kyle Lafferty.
The Northern Irishman scored once in 18 league appearances but was predominantly deployed in a wider role. That must have been a source of some frustration to a man who can not stop scoring in his country's Euro2016 quest. But Lafferty was never likely to edge out the likes of Cameron Jerome or Gary Hooper and Grabban's prolific start to his Norwich career was another obstacle to overcome.
Lafferty does not possess the speed or the guile to get the better of full-backs in the Championship. Given Neil's fulsome praise of Nathan Redmond's contribution on the opposite flank, it is clear the Norwich manager would dearly love a similar operator down the left.
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Cardiff's Craig Noone was heavily touted but reports in Wales suggested the respective clubs were not on the same wavelength.
Noone's former Brighton team mate Elliott Bennett may be the immediate beneficiary. Bennett started at St Andrew's and is clearly a more reliable option in the short-term than the precociously talented Josh Murphy.
A greater area of concern may well have been Martin Olsson's exit. Neil was adamant when Swansea's initial transfer interest surfaced he would have no fears promoting Javier Garrido but the Spaniard has barely figured in Norwich colours. Now the Scot will need to re-integrate a player who must have felt his time at Norwich was over when he headed to West Brom to conclude a deal which offered him a route back to the Premier League.
Either way the loan route is now open.
'Potentially its an area we may look at,' said Neil. 'If I am being honest, I would much rather have a permanent signing but it might be something we need to explore depending on the situation.'