The Chris Hughton era kicks off in earnest at Norwich City on Tuesday as he makes his home debut when European giants Ajax come to Carrow Road for a prestige friendly that will no doubt have Canaries’ fans recalling a glorious period in the club’s history.
Any Norwich match against top class European opposition inevitably brings back memories of THAT UEFA Cup run in the early 1990s, when Jeremy Goss, he of the right foot hammer and stupendous mullet, put himself into football folklore by volleying a brilliant winner against Bayern Munich in the Olympic Stadium. But if the fans will be happy to regale in the nostalgia, for Hughton this match represents a vital moment in the here and now.
Former Newcastle United boss Hughton is brand new to the job at Carrow Road, and has huge shoes to fill in the shape of Paul Lambert, whose defection to Aston Villa was a huge blow for Norwich. Lambert was instrumental in the club’s overachievement over the last three years and Hughton’s immediate task is to avoid a drop-off in performance that so often afflicts clubs in their second year in the Premier League.
Ajax last visited Carrow Road for a friendly in 2002 and left with a 1-0 win – not surprising when you consider that Darren Kenton was marking Zlatan Ibrahimovich.
Keeping the fans’ favourite pie-eating illiterate Grant Holt was a good start, and with some decent transfer activity already completed, most recently Sunderland centre-back Michael Turner, Hughton is keen to refresh the squad that has, with a few exceptions, taken the club from League One to the Premier League mid-table in just three seasons.
His Carrow Road bow will give Norwich their toughest pre-season test yet, and that is shown in the odds on offer. Norwich are 21/10 to get Hughton’s home career off to a winning start, with the draw ever so slightly longer at 11/5 and Ajax at 11/10, and it is on the latter where I’d advise your to put your money.
Ajax have picked up where they left off at the end of the season and have been in imperious form over the summer months. The team from Amsterdam won the Eredivisie by six points over second-placed Feyenoord last season, scoring an incredible 93 goals in the process, and have carried on in exactly the same vein in pre-season.
Ronald de Boer’s side have won all six of their pre-season encounters and have banged in an incredibly impressive 26 goals in the process: typical of an exciting young team that, providing it can remain intact (there is always the worry that bigger European clubs will cast their net towards the Amsterdam ArenA), could develop into a side to be reckoned with abroad as well as at home.
Their match against Norwich is their third against British sides this summer, and after defeating Celtic 4-0 at home and seeing off Southampton 1-0 at St. Mary’s on Saturday, Ajax will have their eyes on a hat-trick of victories and I see no reason why they won’t get it.
Ajax last visited Carrow Road for a friendly in 2002 and left with a 1-0 win – not surprising when you consider that Darren Kenton was marking Zlatan Ibrahimovich – and I like the 11/10 that the Dutch side ruin Hughton’s home debut and come away from East Anglia with another victory.
Recommended bet: Ajax @ 11/10
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