The unlikely double act at the heart of Norwich City’s Premier League revival

Posted by Paddy Davitt

Norwich City's very own odd couple could hold the key to Premier League survival for the Canaries.

Michael Turner and Sebastien Bassong Norwich vs Arsenal GettyImagesMichael Turner and Sebastien Bassong have been an immense presence at the heart of Norwich's defence


Chris Hughton is compiling an impressive list of achievements since his Carrow Road arrival in the summer. The start was inauspicious. A heavy opening day defeat at Fulham was hardly the statement he would have sought to herald a new era following huge success under his predecessor.

Fortunes declined further with nine goals leaked in two league games against Liverpool and Chelsea, but City's evolving mix of old and new players have responded in epic fashion. Wins over high calibre opposition such as Arsenal and most recently, last weekend's historic victory over Manchester United, have book-ended a six match unbeaten run in all competitions which also includes reaching the last eight of the League Cup for the first time since 1996.

Central to that turnaround has been the emergence of Sebastien Bassong and Michael Turner as a genuine defensive bulwark at the heart of a Norwich backline that was in serious need of some TLC.

Bassong, the cultured ball-playing thoroughbred schooled at the French finishing school in Clairefontaine which produced such luminaries as Thierry Henry and William Gallas. Bassong, the Parisian native who represented the land of his birth at junior international level before opting to respect his Cameroonian lineage at senior level, where he has played for the ‘Indomitable Lions’ at a World Cup finals. And alongside him Turner, the archetypal sturdy English oak. A modern-day Terry Butcher caricature who freely puts his head where mere mortals would fear to stick a boot.

Bassong moved south from Newcastle to Tottenham after one season in the Premier League for a reported £8m. Turner, the Lewisham-born Charlton trainee, headed in the opposite direction where he blossomed at Hull before Steve Bruce recognised a kindred spirit and enticed him even further north to Sunderland.

Never was the phrase ‘opposites attract’ more apposite. A double act breached only once in the past month of Premier League football - Christian Benteke’s clinical finish at Villa Park. Hughton and his coaching staff truly deserve plaudits for not only their scouting instincts but perseverance. Turner, by his own admission, fell way short of what he was capable of producing in two hesitant early season outings against Fulham and Liverpool.

His re-introduction to the fray after a period of quiet reflection on the sidelines was greeted by audible boos from elements of the terrace population. With one of those delicious ironies football routinely spawns, it was Turner’s superb glancing header that rescued Norwich a point at Aston Villa. The cupped hand to ear gesture as he raced towards the euphoric outpouring emanating from the away end at Villa Park was a gentle reminder to his doubters. It takes character along with innate ability to come back from such a traumatic beginning in new surroundings. The boos have been replaced by an almost audible intake of breath from the punters whenever Turner lies prone on the deck rubbing a shoulder or a head or a leg after another robust challenge for the greater good.

Bassong had no such problem acclimatising to Norfolk life. He looks the player who sparkled at Newcastle after being reunited with his former first team coach on Tyneside, rather than the hesitant squad man at White Hart Lane.

Definitive judgements can wait until the end of the season, but Bassong and Turner right at this moment in the club's Premier League timeline look a perfect fit for Norwich City.

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