Norwich City head Stateside in search of the winning Premier League formula

Posted by Paddy Davitt

Julian Finney/Getty ImagesChris Hughton's Norwich City begin their USA tour with a friendly versus Mexican side Dorados de Sinaloa.

Norwich City's Premier League preparations begin in earnest on Thursday night in the rather surreal surroundings of the Sacramento River Cats baseball stadium.

The Canaries' opening test on their three-date USA tour carries more than a hint of novelty value as they face Mexican opposition, Dorados de Sinaloa, in what forms the centrepiece of a celebration for the launch of Sacramento's pro soccer franchise.

City's squad is many thousands of miles and a sporting cultural divide away from home and the Premier League. Training at the magnificent Stanford University merely underlined why sport or 'sports' is woven into the fabric of American life. In that sense, this is the perfect setting for Chris Hughton and his coaching staff to put the fundamentals in place for another season of top flight consolidation.

Norwich will field two completely new look starting lineups in each half against Dorados -- a measure perhaps of the intense heat as any indication Hughton has still to formulate a battle plan and decide on the best pieces to fit his chosen framework.

Ricky van Wolfswinkel, Leroy Fer and the rest of the new brigade look set to get their first run-outs in Canary yellow. Only the die-hards will witness history in person here in northern California, but the vibe around the group appears to hint at seamless integration. The Canaries' playing roster has undergone major surgery since securing their Premier League status back in May. A dozen have departed -- former skipper, top-scorer and talisman Grant Holt the headline departure. A smaller, more exclusive crop of young emerging talent has filled the void but that tight, team ethic which carried the Canaries from the depths of League One appears strong as ever.

City look a happy camp. There are no egos in the Carrow Road dressing room. While they are now rapidly establishing themselves as permanent mainstays with each season of consolidation, there remains something of the outsider, the underdog about the collective Hughton is moulding.

Speaking to his assistant Colin Calderwood after training at Stanford on Wednesday, it is clear they know matching last season's mid-table finish will be an achievement in itself. The Premier League is a tough, uncompromising division that probes for vulnerability and signs of weakness. Calderwood made the point City need to cope better in their inevitable down periods. The Canaries were hammered badly when they failed to reach their collective levels of high energy, high pressure football that at its peak swept away both Arsenal and Manchester United at Carrow Road last season.

Liverpool dispensed two brutal beatings. Fulham cashed in on an opening day lack of cohesion. Everton provide the opposition this time around on August 17. You suspect a repeat of that Fulham hammering is remote. Norwich's Premier League adventure to date is a testament to their resilience in the face of adversity. They will need that quality again.


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