Nathan Redmond's match-winning display for Norwich City Saturday may have offered new England Under-21 coach Gareth Southgate further succour he has not accepted a poisoned chalice.
Southgate was in attendance at Carrow Road just days after being
confirmed as Stuart Pearce's successor to watch Redmond cut venomously off his wing past two more homegrown domestic talents in Southampton prospects Calum Chambers and James Ward-Prowse before despatching a low strike that flew past Artur Boruc at his near post to seal City's first Premier League win of the season.
Much is made of the sparse seam of emerging talent struggling to flourish in an environment that favours high-end continental imports, but Redmonds shift provided a timely antidote.
Chambers, in particular, will have cause to remember his first senior outing to Norfolk. Redmond was a constant source of irritation and the perfect attacking outlet when the Saints' smooth passing rhythms routinely foundered on the twin pillars of Bradley Johnson and the excellent Leroy Fer.
This was not just a first three points of the new campaign for Chris Hughton’s squad. It was a tantalising glimpse into a future of rich possibilities. Norwich’s mid-table finish last season was built on defensive resolution and a circumspection in attacking craft. Hughton has spent the summer furnishing the hard toil and graft with genuine potent intent. Ricky van Wolfswinkel at times cut a frustrated figure, an isolated reference point in a sea of red shirts, but on the occasions when Norwich raided in wide areas, the Dutchman’s sublime movement and ability to find space in a congested penalty box hinted at more productive days ahead.
Fer and Redmond brought youthful intent and high energy. Johan Elmander has the guile and the experience of a seasoned international and Gary Hooper has yet to appear in a competitive environment. The summer signing from Celtic returned to light training on the eve of the match after a heavy-impact shin injury suffered in the club's preseason finale against Panathinaikos.
With City now shutting down for the international fortnight, Hooper will target the Sept. 14 trip to his former boyhood club Tottenham on the resumption as a realistic starting date for his Canaries' bow.
Norwich will travel to White Hart Lane buoyed by a deserved win against a Saints’ outfit who themselves look in a state of transition following eye-catching recruitment. Club-record signing Dani Osvaldo tested John Ruddy with a swivelling second-half strike the England keeper pushed away, but the former Roma striker will not look back fondly on his full Premier League debut.
Mauricio Pochettino’s decision to hook captain Adam Lallana bordered on the criminal. Lallana struck a post in the first period and also slammed a strike against Johnson that deserved a penalty after Johnson's evasive action saw him bat the ball away with not one but two hands. Hughton said City may have escaped lightly but there was an element of justice served when Jose Fonte levered Robert Snodgrass over in stoppage time in the visiting penalty area with no apparent attempt to play the ball.
Thankfully, this was not a day that will be remembered for contentious officiating. It was a day Redmond announced himself on the biggest stage.