Norwich City travel to Vitality Stadium this weekend for Sunday’s Championship tie against AFC Bournemouth (4pm KO).
Ahead of the game, canaries.co.uk spoke to Neil Meldrum, author of AFC Bournemouth: The Fall and Rise, to get the lowdown on the Cherries’ 2020/21 preparations.
canaries.co.uk: It was always going to be a daunting task for anyone to take over from Eddie Howe, but do you think Jason Tindall is doing a good job so far?
NM: Yeah, I think he’s certainly made an impression, in terms of his own ideas. The biggest fear amongst the supporter base was that he was going to kind of be an Eddie mark two, when I think most people felt the magic had faded a little bit under Eddie and it was the right time for the parting to take place between the club and Eddie.
People have been really impressed with everything that Jason’s done so far. He’s set them up in a slightly different way and they had a reasonably good, short pre-season in the two games they played. They were impressive against Blackburn, and even the point against Middlesbrough was a good point against a tough outfit, so everybody is pretty happy at the moment.
canaries.co.uk: So what’s the mood among fans regarding expectations for this season?
NM: The expectations across the board are promotion or bust, to be honest. The fans would expect that, given the players that they’ve managed to retain. Jason’s already said himself that the owner has tasked him with an immediate return to the Premier League, so the expectations are high.
Anything less than promotion with the squad that they’ve got and the additions that he hopes to make will be classed as a failure.
canaries.co.uk: A lot has been said about Arnaut Danjuma over recent weeks. Is he the main man to have a good season at Bournemouth?
NM: I think he is. If David Brooks stays, quite clearly he’s going to have a big impact in the Championship. Whether he’ll stay or not is unsure but it’s looking a little bit more likely than it did a few weeks ago.
Danjuma is probably going to be the breakthrough man this year. I think a lot of people probably consider him a little bit unlucky perhaps to not get more of a go under Eddie, although he did have a few injury problems as well.
He’s very direct and positive in the way he plays and has made a terrific start to life under Jason. He seems to be the one that people are getting most excited about.
canaries.co.uk: A lot of key players left, such as Callum Wilson, Ryan Fraser, Nathan Ake and Aaron Ramsdale. Is there concern around the lack of players coming in?
NM: Yeah, I think the supporters certainly feel that way, but Jason’s alluded to that himself, that they perhaps need two or three more bodies. If you look at the bench lineups they’ve had in the first couple of games, they’re probably two or three bodies short in terms of supporting acts.
The starting eleven looks fantastic, certainly against Blackburn when they had six full internationals in that lineup, which is unheard of in the Championship. They just need two or three more to give themselves a bit of protection against injuries and things like that.
They’ve got some up and coming youngsters who have performed well, but whether they’d be able to step in for a long period of time if one of the senior players gets injured at any point of the season would be a difficult one for them.
We’ll see some incomings I think before the window closes, and there have been a few whispers around who that will be but nothing concrete at the moment.
canaries.co.uk: What’s the situation with Marc Pugh? He appeared to be spending some time at the club over the summer.
NM: I think it’s a little bit of a mystery at the moment with Pughy, because he’s back training with the club but you kind of get the impression that if he was to come in for a year that maybe it would’ve been done by now because he’s been training with them for a few weeks.
It will be interesting to see what happens. My own personal view is he’s still got plenty to offer - an unbelievably fit player who looks after himself. His dedication to nutrition is well publicised. He’s approaching his mid-30s, but no news on that at the moment officially.
canaries.co.uk: How do you view this weekend’s game going and how can Norwich trouble Bournemouth on Sunday?
NM: I think Bournemouth’s problem, still - and although they looked fantastic against Blackburn - they’re problem, as it was in the Premier League, is the number of goals they concede. That’s always been the issue.
Players like Pukki will probably fancy their chances against Bournemouth this weekend, but if they can stop the number of goals they’re shipping, they’ve got a fantastic chance to dominate this division I think.
Norwich would probably say the same. It’s very early on to start talking about huge games in the promotion race, but you’d fancy both of these sides to be up there at the end of the season.
From Bournemouth’s point of view, much of that will depend on whether they can tighten up at the back to keep the goals against tally in check for a long period of time - that’s the biggest concern.
Supporters can watch the game on iFollow. To find out more, click here.