Who are these new City stars?

I've not had the greatest of starts with this column. This is only my second appearance in these pages, but already I need to make an apology.Last week I started with a reference to the lack of transfer activity at Carrow Road over the summer - something which had filled many fans with gloom before a ball had been kicked.

I've not had the greatest of starts with this column. This is only my second appearance in these pages, but already I need to make an apology.

Last week I started with a reference to the lack of transfer activity at Carrow Road over the summer - something which had filled many fans with gloom before a ball had been kicked.

I apologise now for not checking my facts more carefully. I was quite clearly wrong to suggest that only Lee Croft (in) and Darren Ward and Simon Charlton (out) had been on the move.

So the very least I can do is say well done to Nigel Worthington for spotting the error of his ways and putting right some of last season's mistakes.


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Dickson Etuhu and Jurgen Colin were dreadful last year, and Worthington deserves praise for biting the bullet and offloading them during the summer.

Worthington also deserves credit for the way in which he managed to smuggle a couple of lookalike replacements into the club during the close-season with no one realising.

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Because on Tuesday night against Preston, the Carrow Road faithful were treated to the new-look Canaries - and, boy, weren't they better than last year's rag-bag bunch?

I was a little late to my seat and I didn't hear the stadium announcer listing the teams, so I wasn't sure who all the new boys were. I'm pretty sure that the guy on the right wing was Croft, but I asked my mates around me who the new central midfielder and the new right-back were, and they didn't recognised them, either.

Whoever they were, how refreshing it was to see a right-back link up properly with a right-winger, reminiscent of Adam Drury and Darren Huckerby down the left on a good day.

And what a relief it was to see a dominant midfielder bossing the game from the off. Finally, we seem to have someone who is strong, passes accurately and sensibly, gets stuck in and arrives in the box at the right time.

Why on earth have we waited so long to replace Damien Francis, and why did we muck about with that Etuhu character last season when we could just have signed this whoever this guy is instead?

(The other good thing about it is that we can finally put to bed all those boring hard-luck stories about Francis's departure and how he was responsible for everything that went wrong last season.)

There was something about City on Tuesday night that just felt different. It's hard to quantify, but I knew that once we had scored, we had won. And when it became 2-0, we might as well have gone home.

Forget for a moment that Preston were so poor they couldn't have beaten an egg, because we all know there have been plenty of ordinary teams that we have come a cropper against.

Last season, a Preston goal in the 85th minute would have meant seven or eight minutes of desperate defending, and no one would have been surprised if a second goal had followed soon after.

But on Tuesday, there was an air of confidence about the place that I hadn't felt at Carrow Road for a long time.

Having said all that, Worthington and his allies spent last year telling everyone that things weren't as bad as they appeared to be, so it's only fair to point out now that things aren't necessarily as great as they seem to be.

In particular, the cartwheels and whoops of delight that followed last weekend's defeat at Leeds seemed a little over the top. We may have played well, but we still lost to an injury-ravaged and pretty ordinary side.

And there's no point in pretending that Preston were anything other than grim. Yes, we played attractive, fluent football and managed to outmanoeuvre their negative tactics. But that should be the norm for us, and beating the likes of Preston at home should be routine.

So enjoy the fluent, passing football, and be grateful that things look like they could be on the up at last.

But let's not get carried away - not until we've actually beaten someone good, at least.

That penalty against Leeds aside, Lee Croft has had a decent start. And he certainly needed it.

By all accounts, he joined City for all the right reasons, and it's good to know that here is one player who isn't just chasing the money.

But the pressure is on because he has been lauded from the rooftops as the missing link in Nigel Worthington's grand plan.

Unlike last season, when there were a number of signings to focus on, the spotlight has been pretty much just on Croft. A bad start could have seen him come under severe pressure from the stands.

Against Preston, he looked really good - I actually thought he pushed Dickson Etuhu for the man-of-the-match award - even though he had spent most of the summer preparing himself for a Premiership season that doesn't start for another week.

Decent cross after decent cross was delivered from the right wing and he certainly did all that was asked of him.

However, it did highlight the lack of a big man in the middle. If Iwan Roberts had been playing, we'd have won 5-0, but there was no one up front to support Robert Earnshaw and I fear that against better teams it could have cost us dear.

In the meantime, I know Leon McKenzie doesn't address the height issue, but for my money we should start with two strikers this afternoon.

The midfield is playing well, granted, but Luton will be a tougher test than Preston, and I would go with a second striker today.

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