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Stoke City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship

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Fan Focus: Norwich fan Jacob is “confused” by Alex Neil’s decision to leave Sunderland for Stoke

Ahead of Sunderland’s match against Norwich, Matty spoke to Jacob Robinson of The Canary Cast to find out his thoughts on Alex Neil’s shock proposed departure from Sunderland!

Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Matthew Crichton: Across the past decade, Norwich have been perceived as a yo-yo club - is your fanbase happy with the board’s strategy or is there discontent over a lack of ambition?

Jacob Robinson: I think the yo-yo tag has become a real frustration over the last 4/5 years simply because we have looked far too good for the Championship but not come close to being competitive in the Premier League.

We know with Delia Smith at the helm we will only have a certain amount of funding and financially the gap between the Premier League and the Championship has never been bigger.

Norwich fans are hopeful of the potential American investment could make us more competitive if we are able to hit the big time again.


MC: In Dean Smith, Norwich have a manager with an excellent record at this level, were you pleased to see him stay at the club despite suffering relegation last season?

JR: After an initial upsurge the season finished poorly under Smith.

This season has been mixed so far and fans are quite concerned over a real defined style so far. The new signing of Marcelino Nunez and back-to-back wins have lowered the discontent but there is yet to be a real connection between Smith and the Norwich fans.

If we are not really close to the top 2 by the World Cup break serious questions will be asked.

Norwich City v Millwall - Sky Bet Championship - Carrow Road
Dean Smith won promotion from the Championship with Aston Villa via the playoffs in 2019.
Photo by Joe Giddens/PA Images via Getty Images

MC: Consecutive victories against Huddersfield and Millwall have papered over what was a poor start to the season for The Canaries, how would you summarise your start to the season so far?

JR: The season has been a sluggish one which is no surprise given we had started with the same squad that was so poor at the back end of the season.

Gabriel Sara and Marcelino Nunez from Brazil and Chile have given the squad a boost, as well as youngster Liam Gibbs who has looked excellent after breaking through from the under 23s.

Things are starting to slowly look like they are coming together for Norwich but there’s still a weak centre to this side, if that can be improved and the key word momentum can be continued, we’ve got a squad that’s more than capable of being in the top 2.


MC: Former Norwich manager Alex Neil looks set to leave Sunderland to join Stoke, are you surprised to see him make that move?

JR: I’m very surprised to see Neil move, he is a very ambitious manager and knows exactly what he wants in the transfer market, but to see him leave one of the biggest clubs in the division for one of the most inconsistent in recent seasons seems very odd in the short term.

It’s a shame as he seemed like a really good fit for Sunderland and had done an excellent job with you guys, Stoke have money but seemed to have struggled no matter who has gone in there, I can see why Sunderland fans are confused by his choice.

Wigan Athletic v Norwich City - Sky Bet Championship
Alex Neil guided Norwich to the Premier League back in 2015.
Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images

MC: In terms of recruitment, I would say you have been quieter than I expected, are you pleased with the club’s business both incoming and outgoing so far?

JR: Yeah the business has been very quiet in terms of outgoings.

Max Aarons has been touted with a move away for at least 3 seasons now, but after his first real blip last season, despite interest from European clubs, it seems no one is quite ready to offer Norwich the money they want.

It’s a big squad we have and I would expect a few to leave before the window shuts even with the 5 sub rule.

Marcelino Nunez looks an absolute steal for just shy of £4m and Gabriel Sara has shown flashes of what he can do already. Nunez will definitely be a top league operator in a couple of seasons time,

These two are key in bringing some fresh energy into a squad that looked like it was feeling a bit sorry for itself and a real lack of confidence with the way we were relegated.


MC: Teemu Pukki has an incredible goal-scoring record at this level for Norwich, who would you say are your most dangerous players that Sunderland will have to be wary of?

JR: Pukki is a modern day Norwich legend and has been so good at this level. He has however been a bit sluggish at the start of this season and might not start on Saturday.

Josh Sargent has 3 goals in his last 2 games and was excellent again Millwall, his non stop pressing is a threat for Championship defenders who want too much time on the ball.

Nunez can be a threat from set pieces but Norwich have been rather slow getting into games, whilst looking technically better on the ball they do seem to need a helping hand to get themselves going in games.

Danel Sinani from the right can cut in and slip balls into pockets and Liam Gibbs is very energetic in the centre of midfield.

Norwich City v Millwall - Sky Bet Championship
Teemu Pukki has scored 55 goals in 88 Championship games for Norwich.
Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images

MC: Norwich paid £8m for Alex Pritchard back in 2016, were you surprised to see him drop down to League One with Sunderland?

JR: It was such a shame with Alex Pritchard at Norwich as he probably spent more time on the physio table than the pitch.

When he played he looked excellent, but to have made a profit on a player who really never got a run of consistent form was remarkable.

The Huddersfield move was the wrong one for him in my opinion and he needed a fresh start.

Despite being in League One, playing for such a big football club in Sunderland was always going to be right up his street, it’s great to see him back at this level and we know on his day he can cause serious problems.


MC: Another ex-Norwich midfielder Sunderland has on their books is Patrick Roberts, what factors were behind him playing so little at Carrow Road?

JR: Patrick Roberts was a funny one at Norwich, his pre-season was incredible yet our head coach at the time Daniel Farke valued off the ball and fitness just as much as your technical ability.

From reports, Roberts’ training never really hit the levels required and as soon as Farke was done with a player there was no return.

Crystal Palace v Norwich City - Premier League
Patrick Roberts played just 23 minutes during a loan spell at Norwich in the Premier League.
Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

MC: In terms of style of play, what can Sunderland expect to encounter?

JR: Style is a funny one because we are yet to see a real defined one under Smith.

We’re still a little lethargic when playing out from the back but off the ball the front 3 and 2 of the midfield 3 will press quite high to try and pressure you into a mistake.

This is an ideal time to play Norwich as they are still in a period of bedding in new players and Smith trying to get his points across.


MC: Which eleven players do you think will start the match?

JR: So the formation will most likely be a 4-3-3 system.

Krul, Aarons, Omobamidele, Hanley, McLean, Gibbs, Nunez, Dowell, Sinani, Hernandez, Sargent.


MC: Sunderland are unbeaten in their last three matches against Norwich, what is your prediction for the final score?

JR: It will be fascinating to see how Norwich deal with the crowd on Saturday.

Against Cardiff and Hull they’ve struggled with the momentum and the home crowd galvanising the home team at times and Sunderland will be a far bigger and bolder atmosphere than the other two.

The first goal will be key and then dealing with the times you guys are on top in the game. I’m going to edge with Norwich 1-2 but I think it will be a very close game.

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