‘A real sign of intent’ – U’s striker Norris
- Credit: Archant
Luke Norris believes that his new club, Colchester United, will be a real force in League Two for this coming season.
And the goal-hungry striker is adamant that the U’s front-running options are the strongest element of the whole squad.
Norris signed on a three-year deal from Swindon Town a month ago, for an undisclosed fee, and is fighting fit again after dislocating his shoulder, which required surgery, in April.
He came on for the last 15 minutes of Tuesday night’s 2-1 win over Millwall, and will be hoping for a lot longer on the pitch during the U’s last pre-season friendly fixture of the summer, at home to Gillingham this afternoon (3pm).
“I think there’s been a real sign of intent, from the manager (John McGreal) and the chairman (Robbie Cowling),” insisted Norris.
“There is a good buzz about the place, and the squad on paper in this league is very strong.
“Competition is everything, and we have a lot of options up front. In fact, it’s probably our strongest area.
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“I think that competition brings the best out of everyone.”
Fellow summer recruit, Frank Nouble, the former Ipswich Town man, started up top against Millwall, with last season’s leading scorer, Sammie Szmodics, playing off him.
But the likes of attackers Norris, Mikael Mandron (10 goals last season) and Wolves loanee Aaron Collins were all on the bench, while Junior Ogedi-Ukokwe is another striker option for boss McGreal.
“I feel really good, to be fair,” explained Norris.
“I have been doing a lot of extra work, and I’m finally starting to feel a lot better.
“I had shoulder surgery in April and I’ve come back a month early – so far it has been really good.
“I played 70 minutes with the Under-23s last Saturday, which was a good work-out in some punishing heat. It was a lot more intense with the 15 minutes against Millwall, and right now a few more minutes under my belt and I will be ready to go.
“I’ve played enough games now to know how my body needs to be, and I feel physically ready to start, so if I’m told that I am starting against Gillingham, then I’ll be happy.
“The shoulder feels great, it feels even stronger than the other side!”
Stevenage-born Norris began his career in the Brentford Academy, making three league appearances for the senior team in addition to enjoying loan stints at Boreham Wood, Northampton Town and Dagenham & Redridge.
He showed his early promise by netting three goals in seven league outing for Boreham Wood, four in 10 league appearances for the Cobblers and then four more in 19 league games for the Daggers.
Norris finally left Griffin Park in 2014, to spend two years at Gillingham, where he bagged 15 goals in 79 senior appearances.
Two more seasons followed at then-League One club Swindon. After a relatively quiet 2016-17 campaign, at the end of which the Robins were relegated, Norris was back scoring regularly in the fourth tier last term, netting 13 in 35 league games.
Swindon exercised an option to extend his contract at the start of the summer, but the U’s then stepped in to sign the 22-year-old on a three-year deal for an undisclosed fee.
With reference to his switch from Swindon, Norris said: “I’m not sure that it was a tough decision to make.
“I did sign a new contract at Swindon over the summer, so it was a surprise coming to Colchester.
“But for me now, looking back, it was a very easy decision.
“Sometimes footballers need a new challenge. We didn’t have much depth to our squad at Swindon last season, even though we gave it a good go at getting promoted.”
Norris may have only played 15 minutes against Millwall, but he so nearly scored with a rasping shot that rattled the bar.
“I nearly scored, but you get nothing for ‘nearly scoring.’ I guess I’ll save it for the season,” said Norris.
“Credit to the lads. They did very well in the first half, against a Championship side.
“We continued that early in the second half and even after the changes, I thought that the guys who come on did well.
“There was a bit of inexperience with conceding the goal at the end, which is something we will have to learn from, to keep clean-sheets, but overall it was a good night’s work.
“That was our first real game against a professional side. It’s been our hardest test and it’s probably been our best performance throughout pre-season.”