Norwich City have rarely lacked talent to fill the goalkeeper position. The names of Kevin Keelan, Chris Woods and Bryan Gunn (to name only a few) are familiar to most City fans. To long-serving supporters, they were the heroes of the ‘good old days’. To younger supporters, they are fondly mentioned somewhere in their elders’ rants about the tragic loss of the ‘good old days’ - when life was simpler and goalie gloves were symbols of weakness.
Even in the Canaries’ recent, more turbulent years, the likes of Robert Green and John Ruddy have claimed the position with confidence and held it in reasonably safe hands. However, as often happens to City’s most talented players, space was made for them to play on greener grasses – both keepers have places in Premier League squads for next season. Angus Gunn, having lived up to his family name last season, has flown his home nest to return to Manchester City. Who will be next to fill such large gloves, and what should we expect from them?
Should the Farke regime favour an experienced guard to defend the goal, Northern Ireland international Michael McGovern will be considered. While McGovern always lacked the presence of his ex-teammate Ruddy, his Premier League and international experience indicates his potential worth in handling high-pressure situations - especially during a season where City fans will make their pressure felt in demanding immediate improvements. However, McGovern also holds the unfortunate accolade of being City’s most rested player: his sole Canary outing last season came in the League Cup. Seemingly un-favoured by Farke, and regarded indifferently by many supporters, it seems unlikely that Michael McGovern will become Norwich’s next hero between the sticks.
One name that has sparked the curiosity of many City fans is that of Remi Matthews. A Norwich academy product who has spent the last five seasons out on loan, Matthews (now 24) risks becoming the latest member of the ‘Declan Rudd club’ – exclusively for “future prospects” nearing the halfway point of their careers. However, now may be the time for Matthews to finally spread his Canary wings and seize the Norwich goalkeeper spot. A confident keeper that commands the penalty area, his role in Plymouth’s rapid change of fortunes last season has been deemed ‘revelatory’ by Neil Adams – the man in charge of reporting Matthews’ ability to Daniel Farke as he returns to Carrow Road. Matthews’ chances of becoming City’s next gloved hero rest on Farke’s reception of this news: we may see him heavily involved, or packing his bags for another loan.
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- Are we falling short off the field as well as on it?
So, season one under the Stuart Webber/Daniel Farke alliance is over and change there has been aplenty. On field observations are abundant, but I am intrigued by how the off-field transformation is taking place.
- Three-Year Plans
As for the Stuart Webber/Daniel Farke axis, I’m not sure whether any precise time-scale has been set for ‘the project’ (I’m still puzzled about when and why this term entered the football lexicon, but that’s a side-issue).
One option in the back of Daniel Farke’s mind is 20-year-old Aston Oxborough. Impressing for the under-23s earned Oxborough the chance to train with City’s first-team goalkeepers last season, and the rare offer of a professional contract. Having witnessed last season’s breakthrough of academy teammates Jamal Lewis and Todd Cantwell into the first-team picture, Oxborough will no doubt aim to do the same as a new season approaches. An athletic goalkeeper with a huge frame, he could be an answer to City fans’ pleas for a dominant, reliable figure to fill the position – his talent having been recognised by England youth teams in the past. Next season may be a little soon for Oxborough to stake a claim on City’s first-team spot, but a loan move would give all concerned with Norwich City the chance to see what he could bring to a future first-team.
Much to the disappointment of many City fans, there was definite sense of finality in Angus Gunn’s farewell to the Canary faithful on the last day of the 2017/18 season. However, it is clear that Norwich still hold talent to fill the goalkeeper position; it is now over to Remi Matthews to see if he can claim the spot. Otherwise, City may dip into the transfer or loan market for new talent to defend the Canary goal, and extend the search to find a new goalkeeping hero.