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Should they stay or should they go? Norwich City set for busy summer ahead of Championship battle

Summer signing Youssouf Mulumbu has been a disappointment for City this season. Photo: FOCUS IMAGES

Summer signing Youssouf Mulumbu has been a disappointment for City this season. Photo: FOCUS IMAGES

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As Norwich City get ready for a return to life in the Championship David Freezer takes a look at which players are likely to stay and which players have let the Canaries down this season.

Young guns

Relegation from the Premier League could just work in the favour for some of Norwich City’s talented youngsters.

Ten young Canaries have been out on loan during the course of this season, getting some valuable first-team experience.

Most of those players were part of the City under-18s team which won the FA Youth Cup under Neil Adams in 2013 – raising hopes of the academy system at Colney moving closer to supplying the first team with valuable assets.

Josh and Jacob Murphy, Harry Toffolo and Carlton Morris have all been playing at levels which should now allow them to push for regular football with the Canaries in the Championship next season.

Speedy winger Josh Murphy won Players’ Player of the Year at MK Dons after scoring seven goals in 46 games for the Championship team.

Big striker Carlton Morris scored eight goals in 33 games in the Scottish Premiership with Hamilton.

Left-back Toffolo made his City debut in the Capital One Cup, played in the second tier for Rotherham, League One for Peterborough and for the England U20s.

Jacob Murphy scored 10 goals in 42 games for League One side Coventry – alongside City’s £2.5m January signing James Maddison.

They couldn’t have done much more to prove their potential at still young ages and should be pushing hard to force their way in to the Norwich team next season.

Dele Alli proved a revelation for Tottenham this season after stepping up from playing in League One for MK Dons.

If this group don’t get their chance with City soon then questions can rightly be asked about the point of having an academy which doesn’t lead to players getting their chance.

Much has already been said about Norwich City’s failings in the transfer market as Premier League relegation has loomed into view – but it must also not be forgotten that several players have let their club down.

Too many well-paid footballers have simply not cut the mustard for the manager, fans, board of directors and chief executive who put faith in their abilities.

For every Robbie Brady, Nathan Redmond or Jonny Howson who did enough to suggest they belong in the top flight, City have had a Youssouf Mulumbu, Graham Dorrans or Sebastien Bassong who just haven’t offered enough.

While the same players may well fare differently in the second tier, it looks likely that the Canaries squad will evolve this summer.

With some inevitable sales of star assets to help soften the financial adjustments of missing out on the new £8.3bn TV deal that the planet’s wealthiest league will enjoy, some deadwood in need of 
clearing and some of the club’s academy stars ready to push for their chance – a new-look team is in the offing.

With many in the current squad also tainted by two top-flight relegations it’s arguable that there is little point in being promoted with the same group. Vibrancy, energy and excitement is needed for another promotion push to be turned into top-flight establishment.

If some of those young stars can then also be sold on for a healthy profit – much in the way Southampton progressed to being a successful Premier League club – then the financial deficiencies City have struggled to overcome could also be eased.

So will they stay, or will they go?

GOALKEEPERS

Both of City’s keepers have had a good chance to show what they can do this season but neither has covered themselves in glory, admittedly with a struggling defence in front of them much of the time.

The stats show that John Ruddy has conceded 40 goals in 26 league games and Declan Rudd, inset, 23 in 11 during his two-month mid-season stint in goal.

At 25 years old, academy product Rudd had to be patient for his chance and could well be ready to be a number one in the Championship, having previously impressed in League One while on loan at Preston.

Much will depend on Ruddy’s motivation though, with Bournemouth reportedly having been keen to sign the one-cap England international in January.

If the 29-year-old feels he needs a fresh start after six seasons with City then Diss-raised Rudd could get another chance to shine.

DEFENDERS

The area of the squad that so clearly needed investment last summer – and that remains the case.

Much will depend on the rehabilitation of Timm Klose, with the Swiss international working to recover from his knee injury in time for Euro 2016. The January signing was proving to be City’s best defender and is unlikely to want to play in the Championship – but can City keep hold of him, or afford to keep him?

Russell Martin, Seb Bassong and Ryan Bennett are all more than capable in the second tier but their confidence appears to have taken a few too many heavy blows this season.

At right-back, Steven Whittaker is 32 this summer and out of contract. Ivo Pinto only arrived in January and has started to pick up the pace of the English game towards the end of the season but is another who may not see his career in the Championship.

At least one right-back looks likely to be needed, and the same goes for the other side of the pitch.

Martin Olsson is City’s only senior left-back, given that Robbie Brady is unlikely to appreciate being played at full-back in the second tier, given his talents.

The Sweden international almost left for West Brom in January 2015 and could well be another who believes he belongs in the top flight.

Youngster Harry Toffolo should be ready to provide competition but City will need more than that to compete from the start.

MIDFIELDERS

An area of relative luxury going into the summer.

Jonny Howson lifted the Barry Butler Memorial Trophy after winning the player of the season vote ahead of Wednesday’s match against Watford and is already proven as a quality Championship performer. Will spend the first six weeks of his summer resting a knee injury but may be a target for top-flight clubs during the transfer window once he is fit.

If City can hold on to the popular Yorkshireman and play him in tandem with Alex Tettey, who is also expected to have recovered from a knee injury in time for pre-season, then City should possess two of the best central midfielders in the division.

Graham Dorrans, likewise, is proven in the second tier even if he has struggled this season.

If the experienced Gary O’Neil also renews his contract, City are well set up centrally – although the disappointing Youssouf Mulumbu and Vadis Odjidja may well have come to the end of the road.

Wes Hoolahan, at 34, can still lead the way – and could well pass on some wisdom to youngster James Maddison next season.

The wide areas look very different though, with Nathan Redmond understandably in demand. Keeping hold of Robbie Brady could be pivotal, with Matt Jarvis looking well suited to the Championship and the Murphy twins set to come in to provide some lively competition.

‘What about Tony Andreu?’, I hear you cry. The Frenchman has not been involved since returning from a loan spell in the second tier with Rotherham, scoring twice in 11 games. We are still yet to see what the former Hamilton man can do.

STRIKERS

Another area which is going to need serious investment.

Cameron Jerome scored 21 goals to fire City to promotion but has managed just three this season. Will turn 30 in August but clearly still has the pace and power to be a force in the second tier.

Jerome can’t do it on his own though, with Dieumerci Mbokani unlikely to make his deal permanent and loan flop Patrick Bamford not likely to return either.

Steven Naismith signed for £8m in January and will surely improve if he sticks around but with Kyle Lafferty having limited chances previously and Carlton Morris still just 20 – more firepower will most definitely be needed.

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