Time to get shirty – Norwich City’s midfield competition is about to heat up

Gary O'Neil will soon be joined by Youssouf Mulumbu in waiting for a chance in Norwich City's midfie

Gary O'Neil will soon be joined by Youssouf Mulumbu in waiting for a chance in Norwich City's midfield. - Credit: PA

It's time for Norwich City players to get shirty… The Canaries head north this week with Youssouf Mulumbu an outside contender for a recall, after revealing on social media he had the 'green light' in training. That might leave City boss Alex Neil with a few decisions heading to Newcastle.

Mulumbu has been out of action since the final game of pre-season, when he broke his foot against Brentford.

He may feature in Thursday night's Premier Under-21 League fixture with Spurs at Carrow Road – which in turn could prepare the summer signing for Sunday.

But whenever it does come, Mulumbu's first-team availability will make life interesting in the City midfield – although for another player hoping to get his share of action, that's now all part of the job.

'It's how it has to be – years ago, even when I was starting, you had to have maybe two players for each position maximum,' said Gary O'Neil, now 32.

'But the game has moved on and players have to accept they won't start every week.

'It's frustrating at times when you haven't got the shirt, but everyone will be needed – as the gaffer keeps telling us all – whether it's from the start, whether it's when you're coming on.

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'So it's about working hard, being ready to contribute. It is up to the manager to manage the players, but also for the players to be professional and understand.

'I mean, how many players have Manchester City got? They can only pick 11 too, and they've probably got 30 to pick from.

'So you've just got to knuckle down, try to get the shirt and when you get it, don't let it get taken off you.'

Managing that situation isn't easy – and also takes the right mix of players involved.

'All the lads are desperate to do well for each other,' added O'Neil.

'There's not one selfish lad in there. It's difficult in football because you're always trying to look after yourself, as well as doing your best for the team. But it's a great group and I'm sure we'll get every last inch out of what we've got in there.'

• Meanwhile, Louis Thompson has returned to Norwich City after picking up a knee injury during his season-long loan at League One Swindon Town.

The Robins have been left with more than 10 players out injured, ing to reports in Wiltshire, after Thompson suffered a knee injury in the latter stages of Swindon's defeat to Peterborough on Saturday.

The 20-year-old is set to be sidelined for two to three weeks, and has returned to Colney for treatment.

• Follow Michael Bailey on Twitter @michaeljbailey