Jono Henckert gives his own thoughts on possible transfer targets for Norwich City
Finishing a respectable 12th in the premiership last season has provided Norwich City with more problems than solutions. The canaries lost highly rated young manager Paul Lambert early on in the summer and are fending of speculation and bids for 17 goal striker Grant Holt, who himself has had a transfer request rejected by the club. New manager Chris Hughton will also have to rebuild a defence that was largely based on loan signings like Richie De Laet and Kyle Naughton.
Norwich were quick to capitalise on the trouble at Rangers to sign 28 year old Scotland international right back Steven Whittaker on a free. They have also brought in Jacob Butterfield, Barnsley’s 22 year old midfielder after his contract expired this summer. A compensatory fee has just been agreed between the two clubs, since Butterfield is under 24 he cannot move for free.
Hughton’s biggest problem area lies in defence, where the departure of loan signings Kyle Naughton and Richie De Laet, as well as Adam Drury and Zak Whitbread have left Norwich threadbare at the back. A likely option for Hughton, considering his Birmingham City connection, is Curtis Davies. The former England U21 international has been the subject of interest from West Ham and Reading but may see a reunion with his former boss a safer bet. Davies cost Aston Villa £10 million from West Bromwich Albion but following a miserable spell that saw his stock fall, moved to Birmingham for a knock down price of £3.5 million in January 2011. During his spell at St Andrews, Davies has seen his stock rise again and is unlikely to leave for less than £5 million, despite Birmingham’s financial woes.
Another player who could move this summer is Blackburn Rovers’ Scott Dann, who has suffered consecutive relegations over the last two seasons, the first of which was with Birmingham City before last seasons disappointment with Rovers. His contract does contain a buy out clause of £6 million, which would make him an attractive option should negotiations with Birmingham for Davies rise above that mark.
Cover at full back is also a necessity for Norwich and they may look to permanently sign some of their previous loan signings. Kyle Naughton enjoyed a successful season at Carrow Road last year and may relish the prospect of regular first team football. Much will depend on whether new Tottenham boss Andre Villas Boas sees Naughton as surplus to requirements. A major stumbling block may also be the £6 million valuation Spurs have put on their young full back. Norwich may only have between £10-15 million pounds to spend this summer and do not have an excess of playing staff they could sell to raise funds.
Chris Hughton’s Newcastle United connection may lead to a bid for 24 year old right back Danny Simpson, who has only got 12 months left on his contract after talks stalled on a new three year deal. Any transfer fee would reflect the fact that Simpson’s contract is entering its final year.
In midfield Norwich are looking at signing some of the Championship’s brightest young prospects with Robert Snodgrass, the 23 year old Leeds captain thought to be a key target for the canaries. Snodgrass has travelled with Leeds on their preseason tour but if Norwich are prepared to meet his £5 million valuation he may start the season in the premiership.
Out wide Norwich only have two out and out wingers in Anthony Pilkington and Elliot Bennett, which could lead to Hughton launching a second raid on his old club Birmingham City for another youngster with a bight future. Birmingham City possess a promising young winger in Nathan Redmond who enjoyed a good season last year scoring seven goals in 40 appearances. At only 18 years old, Redmond has plenty of time to develop his potential and after being given his big break by Hughton may be keen to rejoin his former boss in the Premier League. A major sticking point may be the recent rhetoric from new Birmingham boss Lee Clark who insists that only ‘eye popping’ bids would be accepted for their stars.
Defence must be a priority for manager Chris Hughton, if the club can manage to hold onto Grant Holt then Norwich may be able to ensconce themselves into the Premier League mid table again next season. Hughton must spend wisely though, there is little room for error when funds are limited and much depends on how he rebuilds his squad.