When Norwich City gaffer Paul Lambert kept faith with goalie John Ruddy (and back-up Declan Rudd – what is it with Rudds?) during the close season many City fans felt that we were going into a nuclear war armed with a banana. Ruddy was the keeper of the team that got City back into the top flight, yes, but many hankered after Fraser Forster the Newcastle loanee who had supremely kept control of the sticks during the previous season’s ascent. There was, as one former pro clunkily put it whilst describing Malcolm Macdonald’s switch to Arsenal in the 70s: a huge question mark hanging over Ruddy… in the shape of an axe.
The doubters were no doubt feeling vindicated when a few early nervy signs rose to the surface at the start of this term. A couple of misunderstandings with defenders and a sending off against Chelsea (harsh but probably deserved) that torched any faint whiff of pointage, the name Fraser Forster started to pop up again on the message boards as Ruddy’s role was scrutinised. But if there’s one maxim that a sizeable portion of Norwich fans still haven’t fully grappled with, it’s that you don’t doubt Paul Lambert. Paul Lambert certainly doesn’t.
Critics might suggest that Bolton and Sunderland are no great foes at the moment, but many Norwich fans would have spent the summer fully expecting to receive a few bloody noses from these sides
Since the nervy start, John Ruddy has started to come of age. He sat out the West Brom defeat through suspension and watched the other Rudd save a penalty, but Lambert made no bones about who was his number one Rudd. The away win at Bolton saw Ruddy make a game-saving save late on, and last night he kept the three points safe with some confident picks and stops to deny Bendtner, Vaughan, Wickham and crucially Ji late on. His kicking looks assured, he makes the simple saves and plucks and with the rather erratic Richie Delaat making way for fan’s favourite Russell Martin (a natural right back) at centre half, and with fellow centre half Leon Barnett getting stuck in at both ends (he scored City’s first last night) Ruddy is starting to look the business. And so are Norwich.
Critics might suggest that Bolton and Sunderland are no great foes at the moment, but many Norwich fans would have spent the summer fully expecting to receive a few bloody noses from these sides, after all they were playing in League One not so long back and unlike QPR their paymasters couldn’t afford a massively-paid, Nietzsche-tweeting headline-maker. City’s signings – such as last night’s second goalscorer Steve Morison – came from the Championship and League One. In context and in the glorious technicolour of reality, Norwich are doing alright. There’s hasn’t been any genuine humblings. Yet.
Next up is a guaranteed mauling at Old Trafford, but if Ruddy can get his mindset right, and no doubt ease his back pains from picking the pigskin out of the net 7 or 8 times come Saturday evening, then he may just prove to be one of the best decisions Paul Lambert has never made. Who knows, if he can help keep Norwich City up this year, they may even rename the ground. Carrow Rudd(y)?
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