Norwich City prepare to showcase new boys
It's the �90m journey, and it starts at Emerald Park – appropriate considering the riches on offer to Norwich City.
Gorleston Football Club's home of 28 years will see City step out in public – wearing their new kit – for the first time since securing promotion to the top flight.
Friendlies are generally regarded as cobweb-shakers, a chance for players to stretch their legs and be reminded what competitive football is like – although you doubt that City's re-introduction to the Colney training pitches has left anyone in much doubt about what the job entails.
For starters, there's major competition for places up for grabs, the intensity of which means no one will take a trip to an Eastern Counties side lightly. Lambert eschewed his usual tracksuit for a grey suit to watch from the touchline a year ago as he took his side to Dereham Town's Aldiss Park for their first game of the summer.
And if the teams from that game – which City won 4-0 – are anything to go by, fans should see some of the new faces this afternoon.
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As a refresher, it was John Ruddy, Russell Martin, Adam Drury, Michael Nelson, Jens Berthel Askou, David Fox, Andrew Crofts, Wes Hoolahan, Grant Holt, Chris Martin and Simon Lappin who started the game. The second half team was Jed Steer, Korey Smith, Steven Smith, Zak Whitbread, George Francomb, Stephen Hughes, Anthony McNamee, Andrew Surman, Oli Johnson, Cody McDonald and Josh Dawkin.
That's two very decent sides, but it's fairly obvious that the first-half team bears more comparison with Lambert's regular Championship sides than the second-half team did.
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So will we be able to read anything into this afternoon's line-ups? First of all, there is little indication coming out of Carrow Road as to what the squad will be, although you'd expect most of the seniors to get a run.
There are new faces, of course, but we may have to wait to see winger Anthony Pilkington, who is expected to be given a little more time to recover from a broken leg and dislocated ankle suffered in March, when he was a Huddersfield player.
Leon Barnett hasn't played for City since sustaining a serious hamstring injury against Reading in February, but is said to be ready to start pre-season.
His position – or that of the centre-half next to him – is one of those that some City fans have been debating: is there enough strength there or are reinforcements needed? Ritchie de Laet has arrived from Manchester United on a full-season loan, equipped to do a job there, as well as at full-back – and then there's Zak Whitbread and Elliott Ward. That's three/four centre-halves on the books.
But Lambert recent comment – 'We've brought in six at the minute and we'll try to bring somebody else in but we will have to wait and see. There might be one in the back line that I'm working at' – has left fans wondering just who he is thinking of. And does back line include the goalkeeping position?
The number one shirt has been the subject of as much debate as the back-up role – it seems like Ruddy and Declan Rudd will be the top choices. Or does the manager need a little more experience? If he does, the acquisition of either a straight competitor to Ruddy, an experienced understudy, or even a new number one, would require Lambert to make his seventh signing of the summer.
Six are in, Pilkington won't play, so that leaves all eyes on Bradley Johnson, Steve Morison, James Vaughan, Elliott Bennett and De Laet. If the first-half-is-stronger theory is correct, all eyes will be on the team that runs out at 3pm. Will Morison play alongside Grant Holt? Where might De Laet start? Will Bennett be given a roaming role as he was at Brighton? Will Vaughan play up front, or just off a two, or even a one? Will Johnson be able to claim a midfield start? And what of Wes Hoolahan – where does he figure? Will the formation suit him?
There are a million questions. Sadly, this afternoon may create even more for those with inquiring minds, rather than answering a few. The answers will be more apparent on August 13, at Wigan.
Today is a blow-out on the east coast in front of what is expected to be a healthy-sized crowd. It all kicks off at 3pm.