Wednesday evening saw the first fans forum of the ‘Norwich City Fans Social Club’ take place. The evening consisted of an exclusive question and answer session between the fans and players. Those players being Sebastian Bassong, Youssouf Mulumbu and club captain, Russell Martin. There were some very intriguing and revealing questions asked, leading to more curious ones. The evening started with a question posed for Russell, he was asked if he could see him self getting on the score sheet a few times this season, replying “Yes, certainly. Lots of work has been done on attacking set pieces in training. I mean, you can’t just rely on the boys up top to provide the goals. The gaffer (Alex Neil) has spoken to us of that already, he has told us that we have to score more.”
The next question was posed to Sebastian Bassong. He was asked if he ever felt that his time at Norwich City had come to an end, and his reply was very touching and fragile “If I am going to be totally honest then yes. Yes I did. I thought my time was up. Sometimes things happen in life. I went out on loan for a while, and came back to a new boss. I had to change my head. You know the rest of the story… I had to re-adapt and I had to settle back in with the lads. The boss (Alex Neil) really helped me, he helped me to forget about the past, and we moved on.”.
New summer signing Youssouf Mulumbu was next to face the audience. A member of the participating crowd spoke “Having just signed, you want to hit the ground running. Would you agree it’s hard being struck by injury so early Youssouf?”
Mulumbu replied “You know, what happens, happens. Me and the medical team are getting on well and working hard together. I have a target and a date to return. I am working very hard to reach that date. I really hope I can get back and help the lads as soon as possible.”
Another question was then posed to Mulumbu, knowing that Alex Neil wants only the right man for his team., he was asked what he thought Alex saw in him. He answered “Before I signed, I met with David (McNally) and he said that I had to meet Alex (Neil) first before I could complete my move. I did. And I was told by Alex that I had to work hard. I was asked various questions as to where is my favourite position. And what I think I could offer the team. Whether I was up to it. He was very understanding of me, and we were on level terms. Alex knows what he wants, and he gets what he wants”.
A rather humurous question was then sprung upon Russell Martin, as to whether Alex Neil often shows the ‘curled finger’. The captain replied “It is more of an intense stare rather than a curling finger.” He laughed with the fans. “He (Alex Neil) says what he wants. He is very down to earth and will tell you it straight. He is honest, and even if you don’t like what he says, you have to respect it. If you don’t respect it, he’s not interested.”
Russ was then asked of his pride to be captain of the club, and of what responsibilities come with the role “Yes of course I am. Well, lead by example. Show others how to behave and set a standard. If there is a problem between say a player and the coaching staff, you are the link between them really. You’re the one who has to make sure all is steady. Also you have to provide that link for the youth coming through, to help them settle. Help them make that step up. So yes there is enormous responsibility.”
The next question to the Scotsman, Russell, was whether he felt the spark from the ‘Lambert years’ had returned “The spark is 110% back. Everyone is excited. All the lads say that they enjoy training. Training is heated as everyone is competing for a place, competition is high. The spark certainly wont go, as the gaffer (Alex Neil) has high standards and expectations of players, and he will maintain these standards. It wont drop.”
Russell Martin’s position on the pitch has been questioned by many a fan, many a time. And finally, Russ had his say on how easy it was to change his position “At first, no. But as time went on last season it got easier, and my standard got better. The arrival of Seb in January helped me massively. Playing alongside an experienced centre half meant I was constantly learning, it also filled me with confidence. I do enjoy it there (centre back), I really do. I feel I am suited there. Me and Seb have a great relationship and we talk a lot, we have great communication. I think had I been brought in as a centre-back, people would be fine with it and there would never be a question as to where I play on the pitch.”
The last question of evening saw a number of raised eyebrows from the Norwich fan filled crowds, as Martin replied to the question of “Out of anyone you played against last season, who would you bring to the club if you were able to do so?”
Martin replied “Afobe impressed me. He is a strong, powerful, quick striker. A real handful.” This comment came less than 24 hours after a bid was submitted for the striker, which may suggest Neil had advised Russ. He continued “Antonio also, very strong, quick and skilful. Pritchard is also very talented. They were the best three last season. But we have to be careful in the transfer market. We need to buy winners, such as Youssouf. There are no stand-out superstars in the squad, but we have a bloody good squad if I’m honest!”
The forum was a blazing success and we learnt a lot about the squad as a whole. From how Neil manages his squad, to Russ’ preferred position. The Q&A answered many a question that had been on the cards for some time, but now we must look into the link between Russell’s admiration of Afobe and Norwich’s interest in the striker. Could there be something there?