The time is now for Alex Pritchard to return on Norwich City’s investment

Alex Pritchard hasn't had the impact expected of him at Carrow Road...yet. Picture: FOCUS IMAGES

Alex Pritchard hasn't had the impact expected of him at Carrow Road...yet. Picture: FOCUS IMAGES - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

If the M25 had been clear one day in August last summer then there's a fair chance Alex Pritchard would be flying high in the Championship automatic promotion places with Brighton right now.

The Canaries famously gazumped the Seagulls just when the former Tottenham man looked set to link up with Chris Hughton at the Amex Stadium.

Brighton were furious whilst Norwich fans basked in the glory of depriving one of their former managers of a star player.

Things have changed in the intervening months.

Whilst Brighton have thrived and look odds on to snare one of the automatic promotion places, Pritchard has struggled to nail down a first team place under Alex Neil.

There have been moments where he has given glimpses of his undoubted potential, the 5-0 win at home to Brentford springs to mind, but in truth they have been few and far between.

Pritchard has been a victim of the Canaries' general malaise, which looks to finally be lifting after three consecutive wins.

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Neil still sees Wes Hoolahan as his main creative force but at 34 the Republic of Ireland international needs to be managed carefully to ensure when he is used that City can get the full Wes effect.

After setting up Cameron Jerome's winner at Cardiff, Hoolahan appears likely to be rested for the trip to Wigan with the home matches against Nottingham Forest and Newcastle in mind.

Aching limbs need to be rested and anyone in their mid-thirties will tell you that recovery from any form of exercise takes longer than it did in your twenties. Trust me.

The Wigan clash could provide Pritchard with the chance to finally emerge from Hoolahan's shadow. He has shown in the Championship before with Brentford that he has the pedigree to be a game-changer in this division.

It's time that Norwich saw some return on the £8m they invested in the playmaker last year. But Neil needs to see the Pritchard that ripped Brentford to shreds earlier this season, not the one that let the game pass him by against Barnsley.

Hoolahan isn't going to be around forever and there is still time for Pritchard to seize that creative mantle in this City squad.

And it can start at Wigan.