By Jon Punt
Our second piece of business in the summer window confirmed and you can be forgiven for being rather underwhelmed. Michael McGovern is in the door to bolster the goalkeeping ranks, signing as a free agent, although it is questionable whether this area of the pitch really needed strengthening for a Championship campaign.
If the decision to release Jake Kean and send Remi Matthews out on a season long loan suggests anything it may be that McGovern is vying for a back up spot, whether he’ll be happy with that is a different story though.
It’s difficult to see McGovern instantly commanding the number 1 shirt unless John Ruddy is destined to leave. But then it is rumoured McGovern has turned down Premier League overtures from Southampton in favour of first team football elsewhere. So wait and see on that one.
McGovern is now an established Northern Ireland international after a string of performances at Euro 2016 saw Michael O’Neill’s men outperform expectations. Capped 15 times for his country, most City fans will recall he pulled off a string of saves in a group stage 1-0 loss to Germany, earning him a deserved man of the match award.
But a decent tournament aside, what are Norwich actually getting here? Well he seems to have decent qualities as a shot stopper. Hamilton fans were universally sorry to see him go, and picking through his back story it does seem he has a penchant for penalty saving.
At 6 foot 2” he’s not the biggest, but his physical frame means he should be able to command his box. While the Championship is a small jump up in terms of quality from the SPL Alex Neil has worked with the man before, so perhaps most importantly the gaffer knows what he’s getting.
At 32 McGovern is arguably entering his best years as a goalkeeper. Starting his professional career at Celtic he struggled to break into their senior setup and was subsequently loaned out to Stranraer then St Johnstone. In fact during the 7 years he was on the books at Celtic Park he failed to make a first team appearance. A 2008 move to Dundee United followed, but again his career stalled and the season went by without him starting a game.
2009 is where McGovern’s career started in earnest. A move to Ross County saw him finally break free of his understudy role, quickly becoming first choice stopper. Later that season he was to appear in the 2010 Scottish Cup Final and a move to Falkirk in 2011 saw him continue to enjoy regular football before he joined Alex Neil’s Hamilton Academical in 2014.
Knowing the manager, former colleague Tony Andreu (yes he’s still here and a case in point about the step up in quality) and international team mate Kyle Lafferty may all have been factors in his decision to choose Norfolk.
Given his career to date however, it’s more likely the promise of possible first team football should he perform was one of the main lures. Could this spell further exits from the Norwich goalkeeping ranks? Possibly.
Interestingly McGovern comes from a family with footballing pedigree. His sister Aine has represented Northern Ireland internationally while one of his brothers Joe has plyed his trade as a goalkeeper in the lower reaches of Scottish league football.
Their brother’s move to a more high profile club, along with an excellent tournament showing, may now put their home town of Enniskillen on the map for all the right reasons, rather than the events of 1987.
James Chaplin’s official signing rating
A good shot-stopper, but I expect him to battling with Declan Rudd for a place on the bench rather than offering John Ruddy any real competition. 55 footballs.