Farewell James Norwood - he scored goals, split opinion and certainly kept things interesting

James Norwood has left Ipswich Town after three seasons

James Norwood has left Ipswich Town after three seasons - Credit: Stephen Waller

“There’s never a dull day when James Norwood is about.” 

Wes Burns summed it up well after the Saturday’s victory over Charlton. 

The striker’s final game in Ipswich blue is a case in point, as he signed off in a way only he could. 

Three rollercoaster years at Ipswich Town have come to an end, but he still managed to score within three minutes of coming off the bench in his final game. While his team-mates were joined by their children for the annual lap of appreciation, Norwood climbed into the stands and hooked four mates out of the crowd to join him on the pitch. 

James Norwood with a couple of friends on the lap of appreciation.

James Norwood with a couple of friends on the lap of appreciation. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

He certainly does things his own way

Sometimes that’s been hugely endearing and sometimes it’s split opinion. But you can’t dispute the fact he breaks the mould and has made himself one of the most-discussed Town players of recent times. 

Norwood arrived to great fanfare and with real expectation, having scored 32 goals for Tranmere prior to his move to Town and coming in at a time when the Blues needed a new goal-scoring hero following the pain of relegation. 

The relationship started perfectly. It was a love affair in many ways, with the striker scoring five in his first six, attracting the attention of wrestling superstars and capturing the imagination with GIFS and an open approach to social media and communicating with fans. 

We’ve seen Norwood break into his own house after locking himself out, hunt down cyber criminals after his Netflix account was hacked, come tumbling off his bike in Germany, repeatedly scare team-mates at the training ground and we've watched in awe as his much-discussed hair transplant progressed superbly.  

James Norwood has signed a three-year deal at Portman Road. Photo: ITFC

Norwood signed for Town in the summer of 2019 - Credit: Archant

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It was refreshing in so many ways. 

He was Town’s joker in the pack but it was clear the striker was all business once he flipped his switch. He offered nothing but commitment when he was on the pitch. 

Norwood’s partnership with Kayden Jackson, perhaps an accidental one as they caught fire as a pair in pre-season under Paul Lambert, jet-propelled Town out of the blocks in 2019/20 and all seemed well. 

But injuries began to bite and the Blues started to stutter on the pitch, with Norwood later revealing he was ‘playing at 50%’ at a time he had undergone two groin operations which left him in severe pain and struggling to move freely. Hamstring injuries have been a problem, too. 

As things took a turn for the worse on the pitch for Lambert’s blues, the inquest into why performances dropped off began, as did the questions of Norwood. 

Ipswich Town�s James Norwood performed two Dwayne �The Rock� Johnson moves in the final bout at a ch

Norwood's wrestling days in 2019 garnered plenty of attention - Credit: Archant

There’s no denying he began to split opinion. There have been plenty of back-and-forths with supporters online, with Norwood quick to defend himself and deliver put-downs to those sending him abuse. ‘Fans were class, we go again’ he is not.

But his activity online led some to argue his active approach to interactions was a distraction from the job at hand. A drink-drive charge, dating back to the summer of 2020, certainly didn’t help his cause. 

That played a part in his exile from the Ipswich first-team during the first half of his final season, with the club’s hierarchy not taking to the striker, keeping him off the field and sending him to the Under 23s and the transfer list as a result.  

He’s not often been put forward for interviews, either. But when he has, he’s certainly been good value. He’s good for a joke, a bout of honesty but also intelligent discussion about matters on the pitch. 

James Norwood at Ipswich Town's Open Day. Picture: ROSS HALLS

James Norwood emerges for training at Town's 2019 open day with a cone on his head - Credit: Archant

All those closest to him speak highly of a player with an excellent attitude, with Norwood deserving great credit for the way he handled his exile as he kept himself in top shape and remained ready for any eventual return. Even though he probably felt it would never come. 

Paul Cook had given Norwood the captain’s armband early in his reign before the striker became unavailable for selection, with his return to action not coming until John McGreal’s first game in caretaker charge. That match, of course, ended with Norwood scoring a late equaliser at Wigan and celebrating in the direction of the directors’ box. He was making a point.  

He does things his own way. 

Whenever he’s made it onto the field throughout his time in an Ipswich shirt, he’s generally looked like the Blues’ most threatening striker. He plays off the cuff, on the fly and with a high work rate which, by his own admission, is required to make up for his ‘lack of ability’. 

Macauley Bonne gives goalscorer James Norwood a hug after the final whistle at Wigan

Norwood made his mark at Wigan in December - Credit: Phill Heywood

At his best he was a penalty box pest who can score with both feet and with his head, sniffing out chances if he’s provided them by team-mates and battling away for his team. He has a good football brain and can create for others, too. An excellent example of that is the stunning reverse pass he played for Troy Parrott to score on the final day of the 2020/21 campaign.  

He has his flaws, of course. He went through a spell of struggling in one-on-one situations and has had plenty of games where either his touch has deserted him or he’s been extremely quiet. Sometimes both. 

Yet, through all of that, many would have argued he remained Ipswich’s best striker.  

Town need something new in attack and Norwood’s position is likely to be completely overhauled this summer. It would appear he just didn’t fit what McKenna is looking for up top and you could certainly argue a parting of ways at this point is what all parties need. 

James Norwood spoke to Andy Warren at Ipswich Town's training base in Germany Picture: ROSS HALLS

James Norwood speaks to Andy Warren at Town's German training camp in 2019 - Credit: Archant

Norwood leaves with a record of 28 goals in 88 matches, 57 of which were starts. But the more impressive figure is the fact he managed a goal every 180 minutes on the pitch. It’s a variation of the mythical ‘goal every other game’ you look for in strikers and a record he’s rightly proud of. 

You look back at compilations of his goals and see a fox-in-the-box who creates space for himself with clever movement and then finds the net with sometimes improvised finishes. 

“I came to score goals and I feel I’ve done that,” he wrote on social media. “So I can leave with my head held high.” 

Those numbers leave you wondering what might have been possible had Norwood stayed fit in his early days or if he had been playing in better Ipswich teams. There’s no getting away from the fact Town’s three seasons in League One have been hugely disappointing. 

James Norwood was dealing with an injury for much of the season. Picture: PAGEPIX

Norwood celebrates victory at Burton on his Town debut - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

After successive promotions with Tranmere, Norwood came to Suffolk looking to secure ‘Promotion 3.0’ and to book his spot in the Championship.  

Sadly it didn’t happen. 

This surely isn’t the last time we will be discussing James Norwood and Ipswich Town, though. 

The top end of League One feels like the area the striker belongs, so will we see the outgoing No.10 lining up against the Blues next season? 

It’s definitely possible now he’s a free agent. 

He’s been the subject of significant interest from leading third tier clubs for some time. Plymouth was a possibility in January, while Danny Cowley at Portsmouth has long been a fan, as has Karl Robinson of Oxford.  

Bristol Rovers, who could well win promotion from League Two, are another option, given Joey Barton is a Norwood admirer and the two have an existing relationship. He tried to sign him at Fleetwood. 

James Norwood celebrates scoring in the 4-1 home win against Accrington Stanley last weekend. Photo:

Norwood celebrates his excellent chip against Accrington during his first season as a blue - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Or maybe a return to Tranmere with Micky Mellon? 

Wherever he ends up, it certainly feels like Ipswich will be seeing Norwood again.  

And, if we do, the smart money would be on him making an impact on the pitch.