Norwood Targeting Full Season After Two Frustrating Years
Sunday, 2nd May 2021 11:37
Striker James Norwood admits he’s had a frustrating two injury-hit seasons since his move to the Blues and already has summer fitness plans in place to help ensure that he can get a full campaign under his belt in 2021/22.
Norwood took his season’s goal tally to nine as the Blues won 2-1 at Swindon yesterday, the opener from the spot, although he later spurned the opportunity to claim his first Town hat-trick when he missed his second penalty of the afternoon.
The 30-year-old, who joined the Blues from Tranmere on a free transfer in the summer of 2019, was pleased that Town ended a run of six games without a win by deservedly defeating the already-relegated Robins.
“Obviously it was brilliant,” he said. “I think things came together a little bit more today. We did a lot of good things. To score goals, we had a lot of chances, which throughout the season we’ve been lacking. If we’d put more of them away it would have been a really, really good performance.”
He admits the missed penalty rather overshadows the two goals he did score: “The lads are happy in there and I’m sat with head in hands. It’s a free shot at goal from 12 yards and I don’t think I’ve missed one in my career until I came to Ipswich and I’ve missed two or three now.
“I’m massively frustrated with it myself. It’s an opportunity, a free shot at goal and not to put it away or even hit the target I’ll be thinking about that for a while.”
Prior to his first goal, Town had gone 663 minutes without scorin gbut he says that wasn’t particularly preying on his mind.
“No, not at all,” he insisted. “You’re in a position where you need to finish. As a striker, you think about the chances you’ve had. If the chances are few and far between it doesn’t weigh too heavy on you.
“Obviously the penalty was important just to get us lifted. For me, all I think about is my chances and that missed penalty is going to bug me because it’s a great opportunity to score a goal.
“But if the service isn’t there and things aren’t created then it shouldn’t lie too heavily on you if you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing, making runs, getting in the box and there’s nothing you can really do if you haven’t scored.”
Having taken his total to nine in a season in which he has started only 17 times in addition to 10 sub appearances, Norwood, who scored 11 last season, is now aiming to claim at least one more in the remaining two matches.
“One hundred per cent. I think I’ve been 10 or 11 years now hitting double figures, so it’s important for me to continue that and take that into next season,” he said.
“If I can hit 10 or 11 this season, a couple more in the next couple of games, then it’s something to look forward to and shows people I can still score goals if I’m fit.”
Asked whether manager Paul Cook’s criticism of the squad had hurt over recent weeks, Norwood said: “I think it’s justified. As players, we expect to win and with the club having the stature that it has we would expect to be up there challenging for titles and we’ve let ourselves down this season.
“I don’t think they’re unjust, I think we’ve got to work harder. I think today shows that we’re going in the right direction, we’ve got two games to keep that and take that into next season.”
Reflecting on his season, which began with him still rehabilitating from surgery for groin problems which had hampered his 2019/20 campaign and then more latterly has been hit by recurrent hamstring issues, he said: “It’s been frustrating obviously, having had a long injury lay-off at the back end of last season coming into this season.
“Games have been few and far between for me. When I have played I’ve tended to find the back of the net, so that’s the only positive personally.
“But the season as a whole has been frustrating for all of us, we haven’t quite found our identity and the way we wanted to play. The new gaffer’s come in, he’s got his way of playing and we’re picking things up bit by bit.
“You’ve seen Portsmouth and games like that, we’ve put in little spells together and we had long periods of the game today where we did a lot of good things.”
He says his season has mirrored Town’s overall: “It’s been difficult, a change of manager. It’s difficult. I hate losing games, that’s the only thing I hate in football is losing games.
“When you’re going into games not thinking you’re going to score, you’re not sure if you’re going to win, when we change that around and you’re going into games going ‘right, we’ll do these 3-0, we’ll do these 4-0’, that’s the mentality we need to start having, of ‘let’s just keep our foot on their necks’ and keep pressing forward.”
He says he’s feeling fine now and hopes he’s over his problems and has his summer planned to ensure he’s well prepared for the new season.
“I’ve got two games to get through and then I’ve got a long rehab programme with the physio in the summer. Hopefully come next season I’ll be completely fine and firing.
“I’ve arranged with the guy that got me back from my groin injury to go and see him for a few weeks and hopefully get away for a week and do some more fitness so I can hopefully be prepared for the season.
“It’s been two frustrating years for me with injuries, so if I can just get a full season under my belt, for me that’s a win.
“People think I’m a crock now, but that’s far from the truth. If I can get a full season and the gaffer’s got his claws into us, we’ll start showing exactly what we’re about in the next couple of games and we’ll go into next season with a plan and full of confidence.”
Asked how life at Portman Road has changed under new manager Cook, he said: “Massively. In and around the place, he’s all smiles, you see him a lot. After games, he tells the truth, he lets the fans know exactly what he’s feeling and how the team’s feeling.
“He’s brought a little bit more energy to the place, wants to say hello in the morning, have a cup of tea and what have you. It’s been refreshing and he’s brought a new lease of life.”
Norwood says he’s happy playing as the lone striker, a position in which he was a great success at his previous club.
“That was the role I played at Tranmere,” he said. “I’ve got great number 10s in Troy [Parrott] and Bish [Teddy Bishop] and two very creative wingers. It’s really enjoyable, the game today I just felt that if a couple of chances had dropped to me I’d have put them in.
“It’s going in the right direction and hopefully the balls will start dropping to me around the six-yard box.”
Manager Cook has spoken positively about Norwood, even recently drawing a comparison with Peterborough’s 33-goal League One top scorer Jonson Clarke-Harris.
“I believe that if I get the service I’ll score goals,” Norwood said. “The goals don’t change size, I’ve said that for a while now, same size goal, they don’t move.
“If people put the ball in the box, I’m full of confidence when it comes in and I fully back myself to score. If we can put in a few more performances like today together then I fully back myself.”
Norwood admitted it was something of a surprise to him to be handed the captain’s armband at the County Ground with Luke Chambers on the bench and Stephen Ward, who had been skippering recently, and Cole Skuse both absent from the 18.
Skuse was spotted at Colchester’s 1-0 home win against Salford with former Blues defender and current Maldon & Tiptree boss Wayne Brown, a close friend.
“I think it will shock a few people, to be totally honest,” Norwood said. “Did it shock me? A little bit, yes. But I think things get twisted outside of the club and people have their own agendas on what happens within the club and obviously the gaffer’s seen how I am in the club, how I am at training and trusted me with that today.
“Whether that stays or not is different. Chambo is the club captain but if he’s seen what I am and he thinks I’m a leader then I’m happy to wear it again on Tuesday if Chambo’s not selected.”
Norwood is often viewed as one of the squad jokers but says he is serious about his football: “I’m one of the first in in the morning and one of the last to leave. It’s my job. I love football.
“Yes, I like to have a laugh and that, but when we’re on the pitch then it’s game time for me, I completely switch personality and all I want to do is win.
“I try and be vocal, I try and lead the line and we’ve got some great young lads that have got a great opportunity to have a great career and if I can help them, that’s great.”
Would the captaincy be something he fancies full-time? “I refuse to answer that question while Chambo’s at the club.”
He says leadership doesn’t just come from the player wearing the armband: “No, not at all. You need 11 leaders. It’s so clichéd to say that but we do. If we’re going to challenge for titles and be successful, we need 11 people on the pitch that are going to pick other people up and lead the line.
“We need two centre-halves that are going to lead everyone and push people forward. Two centre mids that are going to battle, be warriors and create. Everyone needs to pick each other up.
“We need 11 men out there. We’ve got a young team but we need people that are grown up and the lads are starting to show that now.”
Norwood believes Town fans are yet to see the best of him: “No, not at all. I think when we start playing a bit more like we did today, a little bit more free - obviously, it’s easy to say with the pressure off we can play like that - but if we create chances I think I can be a handful, a real handful if we get the ball forward into good areas.
“We’ve got the likes of Kane [Vincent-Young], Myles [Kenlock], Wardy [Stephen Ward], Gwi [Gwion Edwards], they can put real quality into the box and when we do that consistently, you’ll probably see the best of me.”
Norwood, who has another year left on his Town deal with the Blues having an option for a further season, is looking forward to the next campaign after what is set to be a summer revolution at Portman Road with Cook bringing in his own players with the new ownership’s money.
“Football’s always changing, people in, people out every season,” Norwood said. “I don’t think we’ve really had that here, they don’t tend to lose a lot of players because people are signed up to long-term deals.
“But that’s football, that’s all I’ve ever known, one-year and two-year contracts. So for me it’s nothing different, you’ve got to work hard every season. One, to keep your starting spot and, two, to stay at the club.”
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