The 2020-21 season has so far been a strong campaign for Norwich City and Ben Gibson, but there’s more to come from both parties, the centre-back recently told canaries.co.uk
Gibson missed four games through injury in December but is now back in the first-team and looking to get many more minutes and points under his belt.
“I’m feeling really good and it’s nice to be back,” he said. “I hated missing the games through the injury, so nice to get back into the swing of it with two wins and two clean sheets. I’m hoping we can build on that as a team and personally as well.
“After a couple of years of not playing regular football, I did expect this season to be up and down with injuries and that’s something I’m trying my very best to negate but if I can stay fit now and we can put a good run together as a team that would be fantastic.
“I’ve loved every minute of it since I came here. The lads, the staff, the people - everyone I’ve come across has been so kind, positive, warming and welcoming. I honestly couldn’t be happier with how it’s going personally, as a team and as a club.
“It’s literally ticked every box so far so we just want to keep that going now; want to keep winning and I want to keep showing the Norwich fans and the lads here what I can do. I still think I’ve got more levels to bring and move forward.
“As a team, I’m sure we all feel we can do that and take it on another gear so that’s what we’ll be aiming to do and hopefully we can start that on Saturday.”
Injury aside, this season has gone largely according to plan for Gibson after he arrived in the summer on loan from Burnley.
“It’s been a seamless transition really,” he said. “The structure that’s in place here, the principles of how we play the game and the quality of players we have here does make it much easier to do.
“After the slow first few games we’ve really hit the ground running since then and maintained that. We want to be successful and achieve something special so to do that you’ve got to be consistent over 46 games.
“We can only look at one game at a time and we’ve taken a good couple of results and started a new run. We just want to progress that now.”
So what’s it like to watch from the sidelines when you know how different the game looks from a vantage point in Carrow Road?
“I’m terrible! I’m quite vocal on the pitch but when you watch it, especially when I’ve managed to get to the home games and can watch it from the director’s lounge, the game looks so much easier because you’ve got so much more time and the spaces look bigger.
“It isn’t like that on the pitch. I’ve hated watching but to be honest in the time I was out injured the lads did a fantastic job. We won another four games on the bounce and really strengthened our position again at the top.”
“It’s testament to everyone - the players we have individually but more importantly the team and the squad - whoever’s come in and played has done a really valuable, fantastic job for the team.”
One of the game’s Gibson watched from the director’s lounge was our 2-0 win at home to Cardiff City last month; a match he describes as a complete performance.
“I thought we were excellent that day,” he said. “That’s been one of our best performances. Going forward, it looked like it really started to click and were very resolute and strong at the back, so it was a good day all round.
“If we can get a repeat of that that would be fantastic with a win and a clean sheet, but it’s going to be a really tough game. We know what Cardiff bring; they’re physical, aggressive and a big side who will be looking to upset us and get us out of our stride.
“We have to stick to our principles and the style of football we believe in and have played so far this season. Hopefully, we can come away from there being successful.”
Gibson was part of the Norwich side that beat Coventry City in the FA Cup on Saturday, and it was a lineup that demonstrated a good mixture of youth and experience with youngster Daniel Barden and veteran Alex Tettey both playing key roles.
“Norwich’s record of bringing through young players and giving them an opportunity and the players taking them has been fantastic, particularly over the last few years with Stuart Webber and the manager here,” Gibson added.
“It’s something the young players are encouraged to do - take the opportunity when it comes. They work hard to make sure they’re in a position to play well and take the opportunity when it arises.
“You’ve got good people here and experienced players. Alex Tettey is a role model to any young player who arrives at this club, whether they’ve come through the youth team or we buy them - that’s how to conduct yourself and look after yourself on and off the pitch.
“The reason he can still play at that level at his age and physically be at the level he’s at is because of how good professionally he’s been over a long time in his career.
“It’s great to have that mix, that youthfulness as well as that experience. It seems to have worked together nicely as we’ve got a real good spirit and camaraderie. We just want the games to come.
“The last couple of weeks have felt a bit strange as we haven’t had so many midweek games. Normally, you’d be glad for that rest but we’ve really missed it. We just want to put our foot down on the gas and keep it going.
“We’re loving playing together, being together and I suppose we’re the lucky ones at this time because we’re still allowed to play football with our mates effectively. We’re doing it on a stage and doing it well so long may that continue.”
During Saturday’s game, Tettey pulled a marvellous roulette out of nowhere, and Gibson was as stunned as the rest of us!
“I’ve never seen him produce that one before to be honest! I got the shock of my life! In the game, you don’t have too much time to think about it but I did think ‘what’s happened there? Where has he produced that from?’ Rolling back the years. I think he’s been watching one too many Maradona documentaries but fair play to him, it was a brilliant bit of skill.”
Saturday’s game also showcased the depth in the squad at Daniel Farke’s disposal, with Jordan Hugill scoring a good header from a Przemyslaw Placheta cross, and depth remains crucial in a season affected by COVID and injuries.
“It’s a season where a lot of the usual controllables are out of your control,” Gibson said. “You could have a team set up on a Friday and some positive COVID results come back and everything’s got to change.
“We’ve got a fantastic squad and everything’s in place here for as many players as possible to be fit. We’re doing as much as we can to prevent COVID spreading and we’ve done it generally quite well, touch wood, so far this season as we haven’t had many cases.
“Everyone’s got to make sure they’re ready when called upon. Young Daniel did that in goal at the weekend and for me he was man of the match. He had a lot of work to do to be honest, which our keepers normally haven’t had this season in games.
“He was fantastic and it didn’t look like it was his first proper game so fair play to him. He took to it like a duck to water.
“We’ve all got to make sure we’re on our toes, ready to take the opportunities when they come and make sure we stay as fit and diligent as possible, trying to follow the protocols in place to keep us healthy and make sure we aren’t spreading it round when it does come into the camp.”
After discussing the youth, experience and depth in the squad, Gibson went on to talk about the versatility in the setup having seen Jacob Sorensen play left-back and centre-midfield.
“I know he enjoyed playing in centre-midfield on the weekend which is his normal spot, but I told him he’s better at left-back!
“We’ve had a number of players do that and we’re going to need that from now until the end of the season. Jacob’s been unbelievable to be honest from the moment he came in last minute at Brentford.
“He doesn’t look out of place as a left-back and doesn’t look like a player playing out of position. He’s been absolutely phenomenal. He’s a brilliant talent and technically very good. He’s got a great mindset which has enabled him to do that.
“There are going to be times players need to do that this season. We’ve all got each other’s backs, we’re all together trying to achieve the same thing. It’s not a one-man show, certainly.
“It’s about us achieving what we need to do this season which is to get back out the league for the club to have another crack at the Premier League. We’re only going to do that by everyone’s noses pointing in the right direction and that’s certainly been the case so far.”
On Sunday, we launched our latest episode of the All in Yellow podcast with player liaison officer Phil Lythgoe, who spoke about the improvement of the Lotus Training Centre in recent years, so what has it been like for a new player working there day in, day out?
“He’s been getting a little bit of grief so far, I think he thinks he’s a local celebrity now! We’ve all seen a few clips of that.
“But yeah, the facilities here are incredible. I’ve been told it hasn’t always been like this and has been developed over the last few years, so fair play to the club because it’s absolutely spot on.
“From the moment I walked in with my agent the day I signed, we couldn’t believe the standard, the amount of staff and how well run everything was, so it was a really warming feeling that I got when I arrived.
“Vicky, who works in the restaurant, was the first person I saw and I always say that those people are the heart of the football club. People see 90 minutes on a Saturday but what goes into that 90 minutes is the day-to-day morning sessions and afternoon sessions here at the training ground.
“That’s where the camaraderie is made and people like that are so important to a football club. Whenever I arrive somewhere, I always look to see those people because that gives you a true reflection of what the club’s really like. Here, it really is like a family.
“The facilities are amazing, as well as the level of staff and all the equipment, but most importantly the people are phenomenal and that goes a long way.
“I’ve played a couple of little pranks on them, but I’m still getting to know them so I’m taking it easy!”