31 January ~ As one of five teams currently jostling for automatic promotion with the world’s richest club, QPR, there is genuine cause for pride regarding Norwich City’s achievements so far this season – and long may that continue. Yet one of things I find most refreshing about the class of 2010-11 is that unlike their recent counterparts almost the entire squad actually belong to Norwich City. Since relegation from the Premier League in 2005, we have made 35 loan signings but you would be hard pressed to pick from them an 11 that would beat our current side, which contains a solitary loanee in Arsenal’s Henri Lansbury.
There aren’t many Porsches at Carrow Road these days, let alone the kind of player who might forget they’ve left one parked in Zaragoza for five months. Of our current squad only keeper John Ruddy (Everton) and Andrew Surman (Wolves) transferred from the top league, sharing just three Premier League starts between them. Furthermore, only Elliott Ward (Coventry) and Russell Martin (Peterborough) were signed from teams placed higher up the league than us at the time, with most having stepped up an entire division to join us.
A far cry from footballing superstars, many are relatively unknown and have as yet escaped the media spotlight. While Connor Wickham, arguably East Anglia’s most talked-about striker, managed six goals last season, our own Grant Holt plundered 30 without a hint of transfer speculation.
A relatively unfashionable signing, Holt’s status on the terraces quickly elevated from journeyman to cult hero and eventually messiah after his hat-trick in the 4-1 win against Ipswich in November. I’d also argue that inheriting Holt and Chris Martin from his predecessor represented a slice of good fortune for manager Paul Lambert – albeit one he richly deserves – with their half-century of League One goals saving him from any costly gambles on strikers in the transfer market.
Part of the success of the current lot may be that they are indeed Lambert’s team. Our matchday squad of 18 has, for most games, featured ten of his signings. That’s quite a considerable turnover of personnel for a manager who hasn’t yet completed a full season in charge. He has moulded a squad of determined, experienced players from the lower leagues who are loyal to the cause and seemingly possess a real desire to prove themselves at a higher level. It may be as much for these humble qualities as for their ability to win matches that make Holt and co true footballing heroes: we can relate to them. Dan Thompson