Norwich City’s Anthony Pilkington confident about second season in Premier League

Anthony Pilkington insists it will be business as usual in Norwich City's bid to buck the Premier League trend once again this season.

The Canaries' squad have had to adapt to a managerial change over the summer, but Pilkington is adamant the unbreakable team spirit which typified their rise from the depths of League One remains stronger than ever.

'It stays. The players who have been brought in are similar to the players that were brought in last season,' he said. 'You see young, hungry British players coming in again, so nothing changes, the team spirit is still there. The new lads are settling in really well and so are the staff.

'Not much (has changed), really. New staff have come in and one or two new players have come in and are settling down, but everyone is confident about next season.

'We're just hoping to do what we did last season that got us into the great positions we did, and just to carry on from there. You look around the squad now and it's getting a big squad and everyone is fighting for places. The competition for places is great and we're all working hard to get that sharpness and match fitness and I hope by the 18th we'll come out of the traps flying.'

Pilkington pressed his claims for an opening day start at Fulham with a superb first half free-kick in the latest 1-1 home friendly draw against-European artistocrats Ajax.

City's defensive resolve was tested to the limit at times by the Champions League contenders, but the 24-year-old felt the Canaries could take plenty of heart from matching the Dutch men at Carrow Road.

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'We always knew they would have a lot of possession,' he said. 'They're two or three weeks ahead of us and I think they've got their first game on Saturday, so the sharpness showed and they kept the ball really well. They were always going to do that, but looking back at it, we thought we could have kept the ball a bit better.

'But we've got plenty of games to go before the season starts and that's what we'll be working on. Defensively, our shape was really good and we stopped them from cutting through us. We made them shoot from long range and that's one of the positives.'

Chris Hughton's squad continue their build-up with games at MK Dons and Hull before wrapping up their pre-season schedule with Borussia Monchengladbach's home visit on August 11.

'These games are massive. You can do all the running in the world and when you get out there it's a totally different ball game,' said Pilkington. 'You can run in straight lines for hours but your match sharpness and your match fitness is a totally different thing.

'Friendlies are massively important before the season starts, to get your sharpness on the ball, find your touch, know your ranges and your shooting ranges, and passing. I welcome the games. It's great for the lads.

'We just can't wait for the season to get started now and that's what we're all working towards. It was good to be back out there at Carrow Road with the fans coming down again, it's brilliant. Come the 18th I'm sure they'll be sold out, the away travelling fans, and then the home game against QPR.'

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