Friends Reunited for Norwood
Thursday, 26th Sep 2019 09:16
James Norwood is looking forward to meeting up with best buddy Connor Jennings when he and his Tranmere team-mates renew acquaintances with their former colleague at Portman Road on Saturday.
The pair are so close that Norwood had Jennings’s initials – complete with heart-shaped surround – tattooed on the back of his left leg when the pair were on a squad summer holiday to celebrate Rovers’ play-off win at Wembley in May that proved to be Norwood’s final appearance for the club.
But while the Eastbourne-born striker has returned south to join Town, pal Jennings has stayed put after his goal at the national stadium was enough to clinch a vital win over Newport County that saw Tranmere earn their passport to League One and set up a meeting between the pair this weekend.
Norwood, who also had the initials of Chris Dagnall, who has since departed Tranmere, tattooed alongside those of Jennings, said: “Connor and I are very close and we speak regularly, every couple of days. I was actually messaging him last night up to about 11 o’clock.
“We get on really well as friends, not just former team-mates, and we like to see what is happening in each other’s lives.
“It’s a friendship that will last far beyond football. We could move on in the future but we’ll always be in touch.
“When we played Bolton a few weeks ago I stayed up there and met up with Connor for a bit of dinner in Manchester. It will be good to see him again.”
But, ever the professional, Norwood warned his best mate: “If we come into contact with each other I won’t hold back and he knows that. I’ve played against mates before and they’ve taken an elbow to the nose.
“I like to win and for me that’s what it is ultimately about. I’m not going to go into any game, regardless of who I’m playing against, trying to lose or not wanting to win.”
It was Tranmere’s manager at the time, Gary Brabin, who signed Norwood in 2015 and his career continued to blossom after the arrival of current boss Micky Mellon, who took charge in October the following year.
Norwood added: “Micky was brilliant to work with. He left me to my own devices and set the team up to suit the way I played.
“He had confidence in me scoring goals and fully backed me, while making sure I trained hard and trying to improve me as a player every single day. I’ve got a lot of respect for him and he really is a terrific manager.
“When Micky became manager it was a turning point for me and my game. Joining Tranmere gave me a chance to play up front after I’d been playing in midfield for four years at Forest Green. I felt I was wasted there.
“I had the opportunity to join Tranmere and play as a striker. I did well under Gary Brabin but it was when Micky came in that my career really kicked off.”
Norwood is also looking forward to the challenge of facing the imposing figure that is former colleague Emmanuel ‘Manny’ Monthe, adding: “He’s a man-mountain! He is absolutely massive. I don’t think it gives me any advantage that I know him and have played alongside him.
“He knows my strengths and weaknesses and I know his, so it’s game of one-upmanship.
“Who is going to do something that the other person knows they can’t do? I’ll be looking to find a way of working round my strengths and finding something that might surprise him.
“I believe we have a team that’s good enough to allow me to do what I do naturally, which is to get chances and be able to create chances for other people.
“I won’t be telling our defenders anything about Connor either. They’ve just got to do what they do.
“I’m not a defender – I wouldn’t like to play against him so I can’t possibly tell them what to do. They’ll watch the videos and there’s a lot of scouting that goes on at this level so they’ll know what Tranmere are all about.
“It’s about us scoring goals as well and I know Tranmere’s strengths and weaknesses just as they know mine. It’s going to be a bit more difficult for us going forward than it will be defensively. But I’m not providing the gaffer with a scouting report.
“We’ve had five [league] clean sheets in a row so congratulations to Tommy [Holy] but we defend from the front and we’re a high-pressing team! No, he’s a great keeper and we have a great back five with Chambo, Willo and Woolfie rotating in the middle, while the addition of Kane has been massive for us.
“We’ve also got Luke Garbutt back now as well. The lads at the back are really earning their money and we’re doing absolutely brilliantly with the clean sheets we’ve been keeping, while we’re scoring goals at the other end too.
“Team morale is great and hasn’t really changed since the day I arrived. Pre-season is pre-season but once you get the first league game out of the way and you get three points you find that level. The thing about football is that you can’t get too high and you can’t get too low.
“It was a difficult year for Ipswich last year but we’ve got an instilled belief that we don’t belong here.
“There’s a slight arrogance there and too right. It’s a massive club that doesn’t deserve to be in League One, so why not think we are the best team in the league? We’re also proving it.”
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