Newcastle v Norwich – Moving in the right direction…

Ben Cooper takes an alternative look at today’s match and the opposition.

Who Manages Them:                   

Pasty face Scot Alex Neil looks like a Scottish Yoan Gouffran and as the PL’s youngest ever manager he’s probably a bit quicker than Gouffran too.

Although Neil had been successful in Scotland in his first managerial post at Hamilton, it was still a surprise when Norwich asked him to become their manager after sacking Neil Adams in January of this year.

Neil had no prior links to Norwich, ex-Manyoo coach Mike Phelan was sniffing around Norfolk like Mike Ashley at a closing down sale and despite Neil doing well in Scotland, it was still Scotland.

Just like Paul Lambert a few years ago, Norwich took a punt and so far it has paid off, Neil has done a great job at Carrow Road, promotion through the play-offs at the first attempt, didn’t spend much in the summer, currently 13th in the PL, makes you wonder why more clubs don’t take a chance on talented young coaches rather than employing the same old tired faces and ideas.

newcastle v norwich

(A pasty faced version of Yoan Gouffran pictured above)

Neil has installed a positivity in the Canaries and although he still likes a big, tough midfield, Norwich try to go forward and if they do go down this season, it won’t be hiding behind a 10 man defence like two years ago.

For his part, Neil is still young enough to play in the PL, his last game came in January at the Accies and although he hasn’t played for Norwich yet, hasn’t played for 9 months and with 162 previous appearances for Barnsley and Mansfield he never played at a particularly high level, he’s still probably better suited to the Premier League than Florian Thauvin.

Who Have They Signed?

Norwich didn’t go mad in the summer, their principal signing was left winger Robbie Brady from relegated Hull. Ex-Manyoo trainee Brady was at Hull for 4 years, making over 100 appearances and his £7million transfer to Norfolk in the summer was particularly irksome to yours truly.

Every time Brady has played against NUFC he’s done well, he’s a grafter with skill and pace and at 23 years old with PL experience, was both the perfect age and background to come to SJP. Unfortunately, we decided to blow twice that much on someone who will have adapted to the PL at about the same time as we are relegated out of it, perhaps our scouts never got as far as Hull, preferring the South of France for the winter.

Brady makes a mockery of that tired old line that ‘buying from England is twice as expensive’, let’s hope he doesn’t make a mockery of us today.

Other signings Andre Wisdom, loan from Liverpool, Youssuf Mulumbu free from WBA and keeper Jake Kean free from Blackburn probably won’t play today, Graham Dorrans, a £3million buy from West Brom will nash about in central midfield causing a nuisance and loan signing from the Hammers Matt Jarvis will remind us once again that anyone really can play for England now.

The Canaries most interesting summer signing was striker ‘Dieumerci’ Mbokani, a loan from Kiev. He’s already scored at Carrow Road this season though that’s not why he’s particularly interesting, once again it shows that something must be up with our scouting system.

We signed a loan player last year from the Ukraine and he missed the whole season – firstly because he was rubbish, then because he was unfit and then because he was rubbish again. Mbokani has shown that there are decent loan signings available from the Ukraine, just not from Coloccini’s little red book.

Who Have We Seen Before?    

Sebastian Bassong, he looked the part when he was first brought to NUFC but suffered in a poor team with no consistency. Bassong had played 79 games for FC Metz before KK signed him for 500K and he quickly became a regular in defence for the TOON in that desperate relegation season, he himself epitomising the teams’ inconsistencies with quality performances coming as regularly as being sent off and making basic errors.

Much the same sort of thing happened to him at Spurs after an £8million move, he played 44 games in three hapless years and since moving to Norfolk he’s been up and down.

He gave away a stupid penalty last time out against Leicester, typical of his inadequacies, he’s too easily out-muscled and out-thought in any game he plays. Just like those other footballing mercenaries; Owen, Martins and Beye, you have to wonder how it would have turned out for Seb had he not jumped ship from NUFC, instead of barking on about his career he should have just shut up and got us promoted again.

It might have made him a better player and a better man. His fortunes have been much like ours since leaving, one step forward, one step back, neither particularly moving in the right direction for any length of time. If he’s playing today he deserves every bit of stick he gets and Mitrovic, Cisse and Perez should be in for one of their least challenging afternoons of the season today. We’ve seen Bassong before and because of that we know why Norwich haven’t kept a clean sheet this season.

How Will They Do This Season:                

The Norfolk Dumplings, as the population are sometimes called, will see a spiky and hard-working side that will attack at every opportunity this season, but you can’t see anything other than a struggle. In fact, if the North East contingent hadn’t been so appalling so far, Alex Neil may have been under a lot more pressure than he is.

So far though most of their players have agreed they have to improve and Neil himself has been more honest than Steve McClaren in his analysis of his team’s failings, after the Leicester game he said: “Today, for us in the way we played, it did not work. Our use of the ball was not good enough.”

Are We Going to Win?                                 

We have to really. For all Steve McClaren’s guff about moving in the right direction and pulling together, if the season does really start after the mauling at the Etihad, then it needs to start with a win.

Today we know that if we keep a clean sheet we’ll win, so the defence will be the key to three points today, which means Colo and whoever plays left back need to be on top of their game and with Rob Elliot in goal, we need to restrict Norwich to the absolute minimum strikes on goal.

newcastle v norwich

Before the game Alex Neil said:

“They’ll be very similar to Derby when Steve was there. They’re quite expansive when they have got the ball, and it’s going to be an open match I think.”

That’s the last thing we need, an expansive game. We need to keep the ball, stop them from settling and keep it very, very tight at the back.

As for my choice of team today:

newcastle v norwich

Our forwards will score today, everyone does against Norwich, so as long as we keep a clean sheet we’ll get our three points and Steve McClaren will keep his job for another week. Howay The Lads.