Norwood on facing his Tranmere band of brothers, his hopes for a good reception and celebrating against his former club
- Credit: Archant
James Norwood will take on a Tranmere team he helped secure back-to-back promotions this weekend. STUART WATSON spoke to him ahead of the game.
Is it safe to say this weekend's game is bigger than most for you?
JN: It is because it's the first time I'm going to play against Tranmere. It was a big part of my career and they gave me a real shot at having a real go so I have a lot of love for the club.
But I'm an Ipswich Town player and I want three points.
Are you still in touch with a lot of the lads there?
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JN: Yeah, I speak to them every couple of days and they're friends, more than team-mates.
Some of them are my closest friends and they know more than most do about me so I need to keep them on side.
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What kind of reception are you expecting from the Tranmere fans?
JN: I'd like to think it will be good because I gave my all for the club in every game.
If fans like to think that then that's great. I feel like we had a good rapport and it will be nice if I got a good reception but you never really know.
Can you remember your first goal for them?
JN: I do, at Chester, which put me on the road to a good thing because they were our main rivals. I scored against them again and pretty much every time we played them I think, bar one.
That made it easy to keep them on side.
Tranmere have huge momentum behind them after back-to-back promotions. Did you see that happening when you joined the club?
JN: I saw the potential in the club, yeah. I was training with lads day in, day out who shouldn't have been at that level and it was easy for us to see that we shouldn't have been in that league but it's difficult to get out of.
But once we got into League Two, players starting showing what they were capable of and ultimately we got to promotion.
We did it through the play-offs and that can make or break people. I like to stand up and be counted in those game. Those big games need big game players and I like to think I do that more often than not.
What was Micky Mellon like to work for?
JN: He was brilliant. He left me to my own devices, set the team up for the way I play and fully backed me to score goals.
I have a lot of respect for him and he really is a terrific manager.
Joining Tranmere gave me a chance to play up front because I'd been playing in midfield for four years at Forest Green and felt like I was being wasted there.
I had the chance to join Tranmere, did well under Gary Brabin and then Micky Mellon came in. My career kind of kicked off from there.
What's realistic for Tranmere this season?
JN: Staying up and mid-table I think. They're sort of getting to grips with the league at the minute but it won't be long before they start pulling off results. Just hopefully not this Saturday.
Will you be speaking to the lads about the threat of Connor Jennings?
JN: No, I don't think so. I'll let the lads here do what they need to do. I'm not a defender and don't know how to defend against him so I can't possibly tell them what to do.
They will watch their videos and there's a lot of scouting that goes on at this level, so they'll know about Tranmere.
I played against these lads every day so I know their strengths and weaknesses and they know mine, so it's going to be a bit more difficult going forward than it is defensively.
You've referred to it being like a band of brothers at times. You all went on holiday together (to Magaluf) in the summer and you have Connor's initials tattooed on the back of your leg…
JN: We still speak every couple of days and I was messaging him last night up until 11pm or something like that.
We're friends more than team-mates or ex-team-mates and we like to see what's going on in each other's lives, not just football.
For me it's a friendship that will last well beyond football.
I met him for dinner recently in Manchester and it was great to have a little catch-up.
What if you needed to put a big tackle in on him or something like that?
JN: Oh Connor knows. I've played against former team-mates before and they've ended up taking an elbow to the nose. I like to win.
Ultimately for me it's about winning.
What about Manny Monthe? He could be marking you and is a bit of a unit.
JN: He's a man mountain. He's absolutely massive.
He knows my strengths and weaknesses and I know his so it will be interesting to see who steps up.
Has the gaffer asked you for a scouting report?
JN: No. I speak to the lads and keep an eye on their results but I'm focussed fully on Ipswich.
Does it give you an advantage, playing against players you know so well?
JN: I don't know because it's a game of one-upmanship. It's about who's going to do something the other one knows they can't do.
So for me it's going to be finding a way to work around my strengths but also finding a way he doesn't know I can play.
I believe we have a team good enough to allow me to do what I do naturally and get chance and create for other people,
Your goal GIFs have obviously got a lot of attention, but will those be on hold this Saturday?
JN: You know what, I haven't even thought about that. It will just be nice to get a goal because it's been a couple of games.
It's my job to score goals and if I'm presented with a chance I'll do all I can to take it.
What about on-pitch celebrations? Will they be muted?
JN: Absolutely. I went back to Forest Green my first time and had muted celebrations but it didn't end well for them when they started booing me because I knocked them out of the play-offs.
I react to things like that because I didn't feel I deserved to be booed and I don't think that will happen (against Tranmere) because the rapport there was brilliant. I had a lot of love for the fans so I wouldn't celebrate, no.
But if you did get a bad reception, you're saying that might just make you play a little bit better?
JN: Yeah, but I don't think it will happen.
I had a great time there.