Players turn down loan moves to remain part of ‘special’ Norwich City atmosphere
Aaron Wilbraham admitted the offers to go out on loan have been there for him and some of his team-mates this season – but the 'special' atmosphere at Norwich City is a hard one to leave.
The striker, like a number of Paul Lambert's senior squad, has had limited opportunities to shine in the Premier League but scored his first top-flight goal on Saturday at Fulham on his fourth league appearance this term, all from the substitutes' bench.
Last month Lambert revealed he was 'inundated' with offers to take Wilbraham on loan with speculation suggesting Brentford, Colchester United and even Ipswich Town were possible suitors.
Whoever the clubs were, Wilbraham opted to stay at Carrow Road – and the striker confirmed other players have come to similar decisions during the campaign.
'There has been (offers from) teams throughout the season, like there have been for a few other players as well, but you want to stay in the Premier League and you want to do well,' said Wilbraham.
'And I've always felt part of the team. I have never felt not involved and that's one thing the manager is good at. He keeps everyone involved and no one feels out of it so I've never really wanted to leave once.
'The manager has always said that he has wanted me to stay. That's the main thing when people come in for you, and I have just wanted to do the best I can.'
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Only a handful of teams have used more players in their starting XI than City's 25 this term, while Saturday's opponents Everton and Newcastle United top the Canaries' tally of using 96 per cent of their possible Premier League substitutions.
Goalkeeper and former Toffee John Ruddy is City's leading league starter, topping 30 at the weekend – but only Kyle Naughton with 26 comes close to that figure behind him.
The spread of appearances across Lambert's squad means 16 players have enjoyed more than 10 league outings so far this season.
And that is what keeps the likes of Wilbraham, Simon Lappin and Leon Barnett waiting patiently for their next shot at first team action.
'It's what the manager is good at,' said Wilbraham. 'It's not just me who is in this position of having to wait for my chances. There's a whole lot of other players in the squad who miss out and who don't even get on the bench.
'Everyone is disappointed but everyone sticks together and that is something special that we've got here, that we can do that. Everyone who doesn't play is always wishing the lads who are starting well and I think we've got a really good togetherness at this club.'
There was a first Premier League goal for Wilbraham to celebrate at Craven Cottage on Saturday – something the former MK Dons striker will hope tempts Lambert into handing him a first top-flight start. But Wilbraham admitted he has not proved anything yet.
'Obviously it's what you want to do, you want to score goals as a striker, but it doesn't make me a Premier League striker because I have only scored one goal,' he said.
'I've had to be patient but we have got a lot of good strikers here and we understand the way the manager has been choosing the team and the manager is the boss. When he's given me chances I have done well and he has always said that to me, so I'm happy and as long as the team is doing well, that's made me happy.
'You want to keep scoring once you have scored one, but I'll just keep waiting for my chance and when I get on try to do my best like I always do.'
The Easter weekend represents a tough challenge for City – facing in-form Everton before the trip to Champions League hopefuls Tottenham Hotspur two days later.
'When the games are so close you don't know what's going to happen with suspensions and injuries, but everyone will be ready for it going into two tough games over the Easter weekend and we have just got to make sure we get as many points as we can,' added Wilbraham.
'We've just got to finish the season playing how we have been playing all season really, and we'll be fine. We can't relax obviously, we have just got to keep going, play the way we played at Fulham – but make sure we start right from the start and not give anything away.'