RR: Alex Pritchard, then - is he any good?
Chris Reeve [Talk Norwich City]: YES, on his day.
This is a big move for him though after dissapointing at Huddersfield.
RR: An uneducated look at his Wikipedia page shows that he didn’t do too well at Huddersfield in the three years he was there. What do you think went wrong for him?
Brady Frost [And He Takes That Chance Podcast]: Huddersfield have experienced a lot of turmoil on and off the pitch in recent years, and in Pritchard’s spell at the club he’s had four managers, so that could be a contributing factor to why it hasn’t worked out. However, the main point I would make is that he’s been injured throughout his time at Town to make a good run and when he has played, good performances have been few and far in between.
To have paid £11m for him, his time at the club has unfortunately been nothing but a huge disappointment if I’m being brutally honest, I think even Pritchard himself would agree but sometimes moves don’t work out. I don’t begrudge him for it and think it makes sense for the club and himself to have a fresh start and I wouldn’t be surprised if a change of scene helps him kick on somewhere.
RR: Why do you think he was so loved by Norwich supporters?
Chris Reeve [Talk Norwich City]: Hah, well firstly I would say he’s not as loved anymore! He didn’t leave our club on good terms and thought the grass would be greener at newly promoted to the Premier League Huddersfield at the time. He was always one of the players you thought might go because of his latent potential, but his departure from Norwich City was disappointing because he was well thought of amongst the yellow ranks. He was an exciting player for us, quick and nippy, loved a shot from distance too. Absolutely tore Brighton apart at Carrow Road one time, I’ll never forget that.
RR: Pritchard arrived at Norwich in the Championship having already impressed at that level with Brentford. What impression did he make at first?
Chris Reeve [Talk Norwich City]: A great impression. Norwich fans were super excited to see him out on the pitch and rightly so. His link up play in the early days of Daniel Farke’s reign was lovely, with the likes of Wes Hoolahan.
RR: Pritchard has struggled with injuries. Could you just outline some of the problems he’s faced, and how frustrating that has been for the fans?
Brady Frost [And He Takes That Chance Podcast]: He’s suffered injuries throughout his career, particularly with his knee. There was a time where he didn’t play for the club at all between the end of August and early November in 2019, he then started against Birmingham City in November but then only appeared once again before the end of February 2020.
When Danny Cowley was manager, he mentioned that Pritchard’s issue was a cyst at the back of his knee that he had for years but had only just started causing him pain. According to the club, there were multiple scans and tests carried out to reassure him that even though it may hurt, he wouldn’t suffer any lasting damage. Pritchard eventually agreed to play through the pain but then the season was put on hold for lockdown. Our new coach Carlos Corberán came in the summer ahead of last season and he’s not really had a look in due to the manager and his injuries.
Frustration is a bit of an understatement for some fans, especially when Huddersfield have been missing a player who can create chances and offer creativity in midfield sorely. When he has been on the pitch, particularly since our Premier League relegation, he’s not done enough. Personally, he’s been one of those players you hope where this is the season he kicks on but it’s never happened.
RR: If you add together the money spent by Norwich and Huddersfield in transfer fees and wages on Pritchard, it’s a lot. Why do you think he’s been so highly rated in the past?
Chris Reeve [Talk Norwich City]: Even as a loan player there, he was seen as one of the first break through players in Brentford’s football factory we all know today - plus the fact he started his career at Spurs always carries some extra credability. He won Brentford’s players player of the season and was also in the PFA Team of the Year that season.
He was a very tidy and agile player up until he left Norwich, then unfortunately, he hasn’t had the game time.
Brady Frost [And He Takes That Chance Podcast]: Well allegedly, he was linked to Real Madrid and Barcelona at one point! Like a lot of players, he was a young, creative English player in an academy at a big club and the hype grows.
When he was at Spurs, he had a couple of impressive loans too at Swindon and Brentford and then he moves for big money to Norwich. He’s also scored great goals and produced some impressive assists in the past, can play some pinpoint passes in an attack and is a fairly good dribbler so when a club is putting the YouTube highlight reel together for when he signs, it looks impressive.
RR: Pritchard was signed by Huddersfield when you were in the Premier League. Subsequently, the team were relegated and then struggled to get going in the following season in the Championship. Do you think Pritchard suffered as a result of the place the club were in, or was he seen as a root cause for some of the issues the team faced on the pitch?
Brady Frost [And He Takes That Chance Podcast]: It’s widely accepted among fans and people at the club that the summer recruitment in our second season of the Premier League is one of the reasons why we’re still experiencing issues now.
Pritchard actually joined in the previous January but regularly gets pointed out as a bad signing, with good reason as compared to the French league signings Huddersfield made at the time, Pritchard looked like the one that had the most potential success on paper. It was low risk as he’s already settled in England, performing well in the Championship and showing flashes of creativity at Norwich, and we needed a playmaker - but he never pushed on.
It would be extremely harsh to blame Pritchard for all of Huddersfield’s problems over the past few years but unfortunately for him, it’s a lot easier for fans to point at an £11m signing that hasn’t worked out as a sign of the club being mismanaged than delve into the club’s accounts for example.
The mental fatigue from the woeful Premier League relegation affected players and I’m sure it might have affected Pritchard, but players like Jonathan Hogg and Christopher Schindler for example dug deep to try and avoid a second successive relegation and I don’t think you can say Pritchard did the same. There may be reasons behind the scenes as to why that is the case, but we’ll probably never find out.
RR: I have to be honest, I don’t know much about him. What position does he play, and where is he best utilised?
Chris Reeve [Talk Norwich City]: I can only say fairly from a Norwich City perspective, he was fantastic just behind the striker in the number 10 role, however he played very well when he was playing either side of the midfield too. Certainly best in an attacking role.
Brady Frost [And He Takes That Chance Podcast]: He’s played primarily as a number 10 in his career but at Huddersfield, he’s also played as a left-winger. You could argue his best spell for The Terriers was under Jan Siewert when Pritchard was the number 10 in a 4-2-3-1 system, but it’s been a while since he’s put a run of games together for the club.
Depending on what formation Sunderland play, I think number 10 is where you’re going to get any joy from him, provided he can stay fit.
RR: What would you say his biggest strengths are as a footballer? I’ve seen him described as intelligent - is that fair?
Chris Reeve [Talk Norwich City]: Yes, that’s definitely a fair assessment. He dictates play, can turn up the tempo by taking a player with ease too.
Brady Frost [And He Takes That Chance Podcast]: When we saw him play well for Huddersfield, he plays incisive passes, is good with the ball at feet, he can get out of tight spaces and has a good eye for goal with some accurate shots. I would say that’s the sign of an intelligent player, and judging from his spell at Town, when he feels confident, he looks good.
RR: And weaknesses - what are the most disappointing areas of his game?
Chris Reeve [Talk Norwich City]: I honestly can’t remember anything disappointing from his time at Norwich, which was why I was so gutted he left. Daniel Farke was too, which speaks volumes over my own take!
Brady Frost [And He Takes That Chance Podcast]: His injury problems as previously highlighted will affect his game, it was rare, particularly towards the end of his time at Huddersfield Town that he’d play three games in a row so it’s no surprise he couldn’t build any consistency. Something that stood out when he was younger was his pace with the ball at his feet, and judging from the little we’ve seen at Town, I think he’s lost that due to the injuries but I hope I’m wrong for your sake because he had talent for sure.
RR: In coming to Sunderland, Pritchard is dropping down to play in League One for the first time since he was on loan from Spurs at Swindon Town in 2013. Do you think he should be a good player at this level?
Chris Reeve [Talk Norwich City]: Absolutely - give him the benefit of the doubt, some time and patience and he will be a super footballer for you guys. He’s leaps and bounds above Ipswich, though that’s not entirely difficult, I guess...
Brady Frost [And He Takes That Chance Podcast]: Again, it’s whether he can stay fit for a full 46 game season and if he plays in his preferred number 10 role. If the answer is yes to both questions, then I think he’d be a fantastic player at this level and he has a point to prove after an underwhelming spell with Huddersfield. If you see the best of him, I wouldn’t be surprised if he becomes a fan favourite because he has that flair and creativity that gets fans out of their seats.
RR: Ultimately, how is Pritchard viewed by your fans, and do you think he’s got a chance of recapturing the form which he showed earlier in his career?
Chris Reeve [Talk Norwich City]: Yes, he can absolutely re-ignite his career at Sunderland - a proper club, proper fans, and a team that have high aspirations over playing defensive football, content on staying mid-table. I wish him all the best.
Brady Frost [And He Takes That Chance Podcast]: Recency bias is certainly at play here, but some Huddersfield Town fans would say he’s one of the club’s worst-ever signings based on the transfer fee paid, the expectations that came with that and the end result. Even our former owner, Dean Hoyle, said we overpaid for him.
To be more balanced, we don’t talk a lot in football about transfers and whether they are the right fit for the player and the club. It’s clear that Pritchard at Huddersfield wasn’t the right fit for both parties but that doesn’t mean it won’t work out somewhere else - in fact, it wouldn’t be surprising if he goes on to do well at another club.
When Danny Cowley was Huddersfield’s manager, he talked about him a lot in the media and how crucial he could be to the team, so from the outside perspective it seems like he needs that ‘arm around the shoulder’ type of man management. Plus in a recent interview with The Athletic, he said he was fit towards the end of last season so who knows? If he is fit and playing in his preferred number 10 position with good players around him and a manager who shows him love, then it could be a perfect match.
At 28 years old, it really is make-or-break for his career and Pritchard will either be a great success or a disastrous signing - I’ll be interested to see how it plays out.