Norwich: Their Biggest Challenge Yet

Norwich defied expectations by winning promotion twice then staying in the Premier League, but they have an even bigger task on their hands staying there again...

Last Updated: 15/08/12 at 10:30 Post Comment

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Last season

Premier League 12th; FA Cup Fifth round; Carling Cup Second round

Manager Chris Hughton (since 2012) Odds on being first out of his job 16-1 (joint seventh)

Transfers in Steven Whittaker (Rangers), Jacob Butterfield (Barnsley), Michael Turner (Sunderland), Robert Snodgrass (Leeds)

Transfers out Adam Drury (Leeds), Zak Whitbread (Leicester), Andrew Crofts (Brighton)

Norwich defied expectations in 2009-10 by earning promotion from League One after losing 7-1 at home on the opening day. They did so in 2010-11 by passing straight through the Championship. They did so in 2011-12 by then staying in the Premier League with something to spare. It will be even more surprising if they can do so a fourth time.

The good news is that Grant Holt was unable to attract the big-money move he desired. But that cannot outweigh the loss of Paul Lambert to Aston Villa.

Chris Hughton deserves another top-flight chance after his treatment by Mike Ashley (even if the Newcastle chairman will rightly feel vindicated by Alan Pardew's subsequent success, his predecessor had not done badly enough to merit the sack). If he can be successful then he may well be a perfect fit for Norwich; with his age and record he is not exactly prime material to be poached. The kind of job he did at Newcastle would suit Norwich, who cannot have much in the way of European pretensions despite the sainted memory of Jeremy Goss et al, perfectly.

Hughton has replaced Kyle Naughton, back to Spurs from his loan, with Steven Whittaker from Scottish Third Division club Rangers, while scouting reports on Jacob Butterfield, signed from Barnsley, have been effusive.

The new manager may get the blame if it all goes wrong but it would have been difficult for Lambert this season. Norwich fans may remember the fate of their local rivals a decade ago: a Norwich paper had to take down an online relegation countdown clock as Ipswich challenged for a European place in 2000-01, but such success proved ephemeral. Relegation followed 12 months later, just as it did for Reading in 2008 after their look-what-promoted-clubs-can-do performance in 2006-07.

Lambert's side started poorly a year ago but with low expectations and two seasons of success behind him this was not a problem. Hughton is at a double disadvantage but there are harder starts to the season. This one has a distinctly London flavour: trips to Fulham and Spurs, visits from QPR and West Ham. But there are three sides in there against whom Norwich will want to be judged come the end of the season. Struggle in these games (Spurs) aside then the next quartet - games at Newcastle and Chelsea, and hosting Liverpool and Arsenal - will be daunting for the new manager and his board.

Philip Cornwall

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