Ivo Pinto is Norwich City’s man of steel

Ivo Pinto made his return from a calf injury in the 5-0 Championship win against Brentford. Picture

Ivo Pinto made his return from a calf injury in the 5-0 Championship win against Brentford. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Norwich City have turned Ivo Pinto into a fighting machine.

The Portuguese full-back has emerged as a key figure under Alex Neil after what he admits was a bumpy introduction to English football following his move from Dinamo Zagreb 12 months ago.

Pinto's value to the cause was underlined by his return from a calf injury in last weekend's 5-0 Championship romp against Brentford.

'I think I am a better player now than when I first arrived in England,' he said. 'I faced some tough times when I first came here from the Croatian Championship. It took a while to get used to this type of football, the intensity, the physicality. I kept working and now I am getting the benefit of that. In Croatia I played in a dominant team. Dinamo Zagreb won 10 league titles in a row. It was too easy for Zagreb players.

'When I first came here Norwich were fighting to stay in the Premier League and we were playing better teams. We played against some of the best teams in the world so I had to jump from one level to another. I really worked hard, the manager helped me a lot. I spoke with him and at times he took me out of the team, in some moments, because I wasn't really adapted to this type of football and now I am.'

The 26-year-old is now a terrace idol.

'Every game I want to give them more and if I can I will try to play better,' he said. 'It means a lot to have the backing of the fans. Of course I am happy to be back so I can try to help the team. If the team is winning of course you want to get back but it is not quite so big a problem as when the team is not winning. It is hard to be in the stand and watching.

Most Read

'I really wanted to go again to the first XI and once I knew I was playing a little part of me thought, 'maybe I might not be ready.' I wasn't sure because after six or seven weeks you never know because training is one thing but to play is another. I think I was prepared. I made a lot of sprints. I had cramps and it was hard but I did my job.'