Managing change is Chris Hughton’s greatest task at Norwich City

Posted by Paddy Davitt

Charlie Crowhurst/Getty ImagesNorwich City boss Chris Hughton will be hoping to bounce back in the cup.

Chris Hughton's first summer at Norwich City was the product of managerial upheaval. His second is being defined by a major overhaul of the club's playing resources.

The Canaries have instigated a root-and-branch review to a squad that secured a second consecutive Premier League mid-table finish a few months previous -- in pursuit of the same, or even an ambitious tilt, at more elevated objectives. Hughton and his coaching staff have started a transition process that, at last count, had sucked in a turnover of more than 20 senior players since beating Manchester City on the final day of the last campaign.

Leon Barnett's permanent exit to Wigan in the wake of Andrew Surman's rather surprise season-long loan move to Championship rivals Bournemouth has served to widen the seam of departing talent that helped carry the club from the depths of League One. City made their intentions abundantly clear with a cull of ten professionals in the days after that May success at the Eithad. The likes of Grant Holt and James Vaughan have since also dropped down a level.

Hughton's desire for renewal alied to the astute manoeuvrings of City's hierarchy behind the scenes has attracted high-calibre replacements. Dutch internationals Ricky van Wolfswinkel and Leroy Fer are the poster boys for a summer recruitment drive that unfailingly transmits a positive intent which suggests Norwich can, and do, aim to set the bar a degree or two higher than mere survival. Speaking to assistant boss Colin Calderwood during the club's recent USA tour, the wily Scot again reiterated that will remain the benchmark for all, bar the elite in the Premier League. However, should City's new boys seamlessly assimilate into their surroundings and the Canaries’ retain the core tenets that helped propel them ever higher, Norwich can indeed chase grander dreams.

Sanctioning such a policy is only one part of the process for Hughton. The Norwich boss now needs to manage that change which is why City's pre-season programme is fundamental to facilitate that overhaul. Hughton admitted as much after the midweek friendly draw at Brighton when discussing van Wolfswinkel's search for a maiden goal for his new employers. His manager merely pointed out the Dutch predator’s rate of plunder in Portugal and Holland as ample evidence that the club-record signing will produce in plentiful quantities when it really matters. Yet Hughton also alluded to an acclimatisation period. Teammates need to learn his game: the nuanced runs to beguile defenders and the triggers for rapier movements in search of space. By the same token, the Dutchman must embrace the reverse process as he bids to foster productive links to Norwich’s midfield.

All that takes time and Norwich have only a fortnight before the real business begins against Everton at Carrow Road. City do not want any repeat of the sluggish start to their previous league campaign which was only eradicated by a club-record Premier League unbeaten surge prior to Christmas. How well Hughton and his coaches manage a summer of evolution could well define the Canaries' top flight prospects.


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