Is the ‘beast’ Norwich City’s best ever loan signing?
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Mitchell Dijks has been labelled a 'beast' by Alex Neil for his impressive impact since arriving from Ajax - but is he Norwich City's best-ever loan import?
The 24-year-old arrived at Carrow Road in January, after a charm offensive from Neil, having initially baulked at a mid-season move from the Dutch giants. The powerhouse left-back swiftly became a cult figure with City fans for his all-action style and was named Norwich's man-of-the-match in Sunday's 1-1 Championship derby draw against Ipswich Town.
Norwich confirmed after his capture there is an option to make the move permanent in the summer, but that you suspect hinges on City's league status and how many potential other suitors have been impressed by Dijks' start to life in England.
'He has equipped himself unbelievably well since he has come here,' said Neil. 'Burton was probably a game too much for him, in terms of intensity, and having to churn out game after game after game. I would certainly say that was probably his poorest performance but he was great (against Ipswich). You see how strong he is, he is physical and can go past players so he certainly has all the attributes.'
Dijks was denied a derby goal that would have added to his growing reputation, when his close range finish was disallowed for handball, but where does one goal in City six appearances rank him amongst some stiff competition for Norwich's best short-term arrival?
Darren Huckerby went on to achieve legendary status with the Canaries after five goals in 16 loan appearances before completing a permanent move in a 2003/04 season that ended in promotion from the second tier. Huckerby's brilliant wing play and daring attacking exploits mark him out as one of the club's best modern-day players.
Russell Martin led City to Wembley play-off glory in 2015, his third promotion with the club, which started with a six-game unbeaten stretch in the 2009/10 campaign on loan from Peterborough. Martin has been a key figure under a series of managers since Paul Lambert, in a career which has also seen him earn international honours with Scotland.
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Martin's team mate in that 2010 League One title-winning set-up was England international Fraser Forster. The former Newcastle United keeper was an imposing figure on a season-long loan that ended with a winners' medal and Norwich's players' player-of-the-year award. The 28-year-old then went on to Celtic and the Champions League and is now one of England's best at Southampton.
The same could to apply to Ryan Bertrand, who is a team mate of Forster for club and country. Bertrand made an improbably high 56 league appearances on loan for the Canaries in a 16-month stint. City's declining fortunes on the pitch may have framed a forgettable period in the club's recent history, but Bertrand has proved himself a class act after finally cutting his ties with Chelsea to join the Saints for a reported £10m in February 2015.