'People might think I'm crocked now... but I fully back myself' - Norwood determined to make his mark
- Credit: Pagepix/ITFC
Striker James Norwood is determined to make his mark next season after insisting Ipswich fans have yet to see the best of him in a blue shirt.
The forward, the Blues marquee signing in the summer of 2019, has scored 11 and then 10 goals in two injury-hit seasons in Suffolk, with groin and then hamstring problems limiting his time on the field to just 43 starts during that period.
Despite that, he’s still averaged better than a goal every other game in his League One minutes and was handed the captain’s armband by Paul Cook at the end of last season.
Norwood is understood to be one of just a handful of Ipswich players still in Cook’s plans as Town are rebuilt this summer, with the 30-year-old still believing he has much more to come.
“No, not at all,” he replied, when asked if Ipswich fans had seen the best of him yet.
“When we start playing a bit more freely we create chances and I can be a real handful, especially if we get the ball forward into good areas.
“It’s been two frustrating years for me with injuries so if I can just get a full season under my belt then that’s a win.
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“People will think I’m crocked now but that’s far from the truth. If I can get a full season now and, if the gaffer’s got his claws into us, then I can show what I’m all about.
“I believe if I get the service then I’ll score goals.
“The goals don’t change size, they don’t move, so if people put the ball in the box I’m confident I can score. I fully back myself.”
It’s going to be a summer of real change at Portman Road, with the vast majority of last season’s squad either released or told they can move on. But a significant turnover of players is something Norwood’s used to.
“Football’s always changing and people are in and out of clubs every season,” he said, speaking before the end of last season.
“I don’t think that’s really happened here because people are signed up on long-term deals, but this is all I’ve ever known.
“It’s been one or two-year contracts (for all the players) at clubs I’ve been at so for me it’s nothing different. You have to work hard every season to keep your starting spot and then stay at the club.
“It’s been a difficult season with the change of manager but it’s been difficult losing games because that’s the thing I hate the most.”
As well as playing plenty of golf, Norwood has spent his time away from Suffolk working on his fitness and undergoing a tailored rehabilitation plan for the second summer in a row, having admitted he was ‘playing at 50%’ during his debut Town campaign.
“I’ve got a long rehab programme for over the summer, so hopefully I’ll come back next season firing,” he said.
“I’ve arranged a programme with the guy who got me back from my groin injury, to go and see him for a few weeks, so hopefully that can help get me prepared for the season.
“It’s been frustrating because I had a long injury lay-off at the back end of last season (2019/20) and then coming into this one put a few games together on the spin. That’s been few and far between but, when I have played, I’ve tended to find the back of the net.”
Norwood has enjoyed working under Cook despite a disappointing end to the season which saw the Blues drop out of play-off contention.
“(Last) season as a whole was frustrating for all of us,” said the striker, who is now entering the final season of his contract.
“We haven’t quite found our identity because the new gaffer has come in and has his way of playing. We’re picking things up bit by bit and have put a few spells together.
“It’s been massively different (since Cook came in). You see him around the place and he’s been all-smiles. After games he tells the truth and lets people know exactly what he’s feeling and how the team is feeling.
“He’s brought a little bit more energy to the place, just by saying hello in the morning and having cups of tea together and things like that, so it’s been refreshing.
“He’s brought a new lease of life.”
Norwood and the rest of the Ipswich players return to Playford Road for the start of pre-season training on Saturday.