Iwan Roberts on Norwich's top-flight adjustment, January reinforcement and Alex Neil's strengths

Iwan Roberts Vauxhall

The former Canaries striker discusses goings on at Carrow Road with HITC Sport.

Iwan Roberts Kevin Gallacher Gerry Taggart Vauxhall

Life can be tough for new boys, in all walks of life.

That is particularly true for those entering the Premier League playground.

Suddenly, having been big fish in a small pond, those fortunate enough to secure promotion to the top table find themselves swimming against the tide in a vast ocean of talent.

It is for this reason that an immediate return from whence they came is often predicted for newcomers to the top-flight party.

This is, however, far from a mission impossible, with consolidation and respect there to be earned for those brave enough to embrace the challenge and stick to the principles which got them a ticket to the party in the first place.

Among those hoping to keep their name on the guest list for 2016/17 are Norwich City, a club that has enjoyed/endured something of a yo-yo existence in recent times.

Since 2004, the Canaries have suffered three relegations, dropping them as low as the third tier at one stage, but have countered those setbacks with three promotions and are currently taking in a fifth year (eighth in total) among the Premier League glitterati.

Iwan Roberts Vauxhall

They are making a good fist of things as well, with 12 points taken from as many games – more than reigning champions Chelsea – and a four-point gap opened up on the trapdoor which leads back to the Championship.

Alex Neil’s men have also netted 16 goals – a better return than half of the division have mustered – with any fears that a lack of firepower could hold them back – as it has at this level in the past – calmed during the opening months of the campaign.

Among those encouraged by what he has seen so far is a man who found the target 97 times over the course of seven productive seasons at Carrow Road.

Iwan Roberts, who was speaking at the filming of the Vauxhall Home Nations Football Show, told HITC Sport during a phone interview: “That was the big question at the start of the season among Norwich fans, are they going to score enough goals in this division? But I think they have done okay, to be honest. What they have struggled with is conceding far too many. They got their first clean sheet against Swansea and the defence looked solid, and that’s how they have to be.

“The manager has been courageous, he’s gone out there and he’s tried to entertain and he’s tried to win games but you have to be careful at this level, you get punished so quickly. They had a bad spell, losing five games on the spin, but those three points against Swansea heading into the international break will have done them the world of good. A first clean sheet, they can kick on now and build on that.”

With Roberts of the opinion that the attacking unit has enough about it to keep things ticking over in the final third, the ex-Wales international believes that Neil will focus his attention on other areas when the transfer window re-opens in January and the scramble for points and safety is turned up another notch.

He added: “He will want to strengthen defensively in January. He has got Cameron Jerome, who will get a few goals, Nathan Redmond will usually chip in with four or five, they have got the boy on loan from Kiev, (Dieumerci) Mbokani, who looks to be a really good find. They have got goals in them, but I think he needs to bring in one more centre-half in January. I think they will bring in more than one player, but if there is one position that needs strengthening, even though Ryan Bennett has come in for the last couple of games and done well, I think it’s centre-half.”

Roberts also feels that Neil will continue to grow as a top-level coach, with it easy to forget that the affable Scot is only 34 years of age and less than a year into his managerial career in England – with Norwich having lured him away from Hamilton Academical in January 2015.

“He’s done fantastic,” Roberts said of a man who oversaw play-off final glory at Wembley last season.

“He took over when they were 10th, they were 12 or 13 points outside of the top two. He got them all together from January when he took over, they only lost two or three games. He has been given an opportunity and he’s grabbed it with both hands. He got them into the play-offs and if something needs saying, he’ll say it, he won’t beat around the bush, and I think that’s what you need.

“He did have a good squad to work with last year, he had a solid squad in that Championship, but he did have to get them motivated, get them hungry again, which he did. He’s carried it on this year and I think he’s learning all the time, which is the most important thing for him as a manager being so young, that he learns from the mistakes he has made.”

Not too many have been made so far, with the penning of a new long-term contract over the summer just reward for the job he has done and a show of faith from the Norwich board in his ability to continue delivering results.

Preserving their Premier League standing remains the obvious target for all concerned and, if they are able to tick that box, they will happily shake their new boy tag and set about becoming an established member of an elite club.

Watch the Vauxhall Home Nations Football Show with Ian Wright, Gerry Taggart, Kevin Gallacher and Iwan Roberts by subscribing to Vauxhall Football on YouTube here.

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