Cory Varney doesn't quite see where things are going long term for Norwich City. As such he has some fun hypothesising about potential visions for the future.
By Cory Varney
Dean Ashton. Robert Earnshaw. Carl Cort. Cody McDonald. Grant Holt. Simeon Jackson. Ricky van Wolfswinkel. Gary Hooper. Lewis Grabban. Cameron Jerome. Dieumerci Mbokani. And, of course, the eagerly anticipated TBA and his potential counterpart, TBC.
There’s a reason I end up with about six or seven strikers on Football Manager. With the exception of big Timm Klose, they’re the most exciting of signings. They get the hearts racing. They get the tongues wagging. In truth, they’re the ones most likely to be the hero come the end of the season. The ones to fire us to promotion.
You go to football for goals. That’s what gets you off your seat more often than not. Simeon Jackson against Derby County. Grant Holt smashing home a treble against Ipswich. Cameron Jerome’s opener against Middlesbrough at Wembley. There’s more, but after any successful Saturday, you trot home, replaying the goals in your mind, still feeling that wondrous buzz. If it’s a really big goal, you’re remembering it for years and years to come.
They’re the providers of memories. The name on the back of the shirt. And with the exception of Cameron Jerome, who did a sterling job last time around netting over 20 goals, since everyone’s favourite Cumbrian left for pastures new, we’ve not really had a striking hero we could get behind. The number nine shirt has proven a poisoned chalice. Despite Ricky van Wolfswinkel’s dazzling good looks, he just couldn’t score. Kyle Lafferty came next, eventually leaving on loan with only one goal to his name before Dieumerci Mbokani was handed the task last season. I liked Dieu, but we didn’t see the Newcastle Mbokani enough.
More than any other season in recent memory, the (eventual) arrival of a new number 9 feels like it carries that extra bit of weight. The trail of failures since Grant Holt has certainly got me hoping this is going to be fourth time lucky, while the fact that we’ve not signed a permanent striker under Alex Neil makes it feel somewhat overdue. Sure, we’ve tried. Allegedly Dwight Gayle could have made the switch to Carrow Road last summer, after the Benik Afobe saga dragged on. Sebastien Haller was an odd one in January that didn’t really go anywhere. There were rumours about Steven Fletcher this time around, before Ross McCormack grew increasingly tedious and didn’t even have a happy ending.
But, at last, it seems as if we will have a new striker through the door. One to keep. Eventually.
It’s a critical addition going forwards. The elusive number 9. The missing piece to our pretty good looking puzzle. While the weekend’s impressive mauling of Blackburn should ease concerns that we’ve got a lack of firepower, what we don’t currently have are options up top. In an ideal world, we’d have another 45 games like that one on Saturday but I think we all know that’s highly unlikely. Therefore, Cam is going to need a hand, we’re going to need something different up there and more than anything, we need someone else who can score a lot of goals.
We’ve had a flurry of names thrown at us. It’s rather like being stood in front of a pick ‘n mix selection and just not knowing where to stick your money. I’d hazard a guess that messrs Moxey, Balls and Neil have a rough idea.
However, whether it’s Wells, Assombalonga or my personal favourite Gorgon, with the likes of Wessi, Naismith, Pritchard, the Murphys, Maddison and Canos creating behind them, I’d be cautiously optimistic our new number 9 would be a little more Iwan and Holt, rather than another expensive flop.
Follow Cory on Twitter @iwritethings23
By Cory Varney
I’ll set the scene for you. It’s August 2009. Norwich had just toppled Wigan Athletic at Carrow Road, which capped an unbeaten pre-season. We’d won 6 of our 7 games.
I recall being excited about the signings of both Goran Maric and Simon Whaley. In Whaley, I thought we’d filled that Darren Huckerby void. A blasphemous sentiment, I’m all too aware. But regardless, I was living in Switzerland at the time and looking forward to trekking back to the UK for the opening day visit of Colchester United.
I was struggling not to be optimistic. After the disappointment of relegation to the third tier, it seemed pretty inevitable we weren’t going to come along and take to League One like a duck to water.
I was sure we were about to take it by storm, before triumphantly returning to the Championship.
In fairness, we eventually did that and then some, but still…
Norwich City 1. Colchester United 7 (SEVEN).
What did I learn? You can’t read anything whatsoever into pre-season.
The most interesting part of pre-season, the bit you can actually read into things, are Alex Neil’s post-match comments. Are we getting anywhere with transfers? Who might be on their way out? Who is injured? Who’s in the thinking for a first team spot? Which younger players are in with a chance of forcing their way through? Those sorts of things. They give us an indication of what the season ahead may hold.
3-1 defeats to Czech sides with what’s not a first choice eleven certainly don’t. Why on earth would you then go and exert energy fretting about the most meaningless of games?
Last time we were in the Championship, we had a productive pre-season. A 2-2 draw with Celta Vigo and a 5-1 triumph over Nice concluded things, though we then went on and lost our first game of the season.
Having said that, things went pretty well after that but the point is, though, the only purpose of pre-season is to get the boys fit, in shape and ready to go for that opening day of the season.
Alongside the shenanigans of friendly matches, we’ve got the tedious transfer circus rolling into town.
Ross McCormack is the current man in place dividing opinion and causing mass panic. He’s too old. He’s too expensive. Ricky should play instead – I’ve actually come across that one. We should sign Assombalonga instead.
In fairness, thanks to social media and Sky Sports, transfers have now become a daily case of will they, won’t they often growing very tedious, very fast. You also have the ITK accounts pop up like fireworks across a November night’s sky, with the vast, vast majority completely full of rubbish.
It’s a rotten egg dumped on top of a less than satisfying recipe we chomp on each summer.
The transfer ‘fun’ will stretch on in the weeks to come, but thankfully we’ve almost got some competitive football to stick our teeth into.
Have I learned anything from pre-season so far? No.
Saturday’s team to face Hannover may give us an indication of who will face Blackburn, but all in all, the first 10 or so games of the season will show us just how up for the fight this City side are and what the season may hold for us.