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Aug 24, 2012

Norwich's three-card trick has worked wonders for morale

Fulham result? What Fulham result? So much water has flown under the bridge in these parts since Craven Cottage, you suspect a boat will be needed to navigate along Carrow Road for QPR's visit in a matter of hours.

Chris Hughton and Norwich's astute hierarchy have worked feverishly at break neck speed in the transfer market since that 5-0 mauling it almost feels like that experience only took place in the darkest recesses of those in attendance last weekend. A nightmare of such shivering proportions those in Norfolk could be compelled to view QPR as the opening day of the Premier League season. And Fulham a bitter dress rehearsal.

Hughton revealed at his pre-match QPR press call the post-mortem had lasted all of a Monday morning at the club's Colney training base. Words were exchanged, tapes watched (through hands no doubt in some quarters) and then the events of Fulham (a) consigned to the memory. The focus since has been on preparing to meet a Rangers' squad scarred by an equally chastening experience. Worse in some respects given their mauling at the hands of Swansea was played out in front of a home audience.

Except, Norwich's focus has not been restricted solely to the training pitch and the tactical suite. They have managed to bring in the quality of reinforcement that raises genuine optimism among a support base understandably reeling from the manner of their side's dismantling at Fulham.

Tuesday brought the arrival of Tottenham's Sebastien Bassong. The Cameroon international may have been down the pecking order under Andre Villas-Boas after an abbreviated three-year stint at White Hart Lane, but the 26-year-old retains star quality. Bassong's stellar first season in English football at Newcastle earned him that reported £8m move south. A season on Tyneside he spent working with a certain C Hughton.

Basssong told me earlier this week the Hughton factor was a huge one in his decision to cut his London ties. Norwich's manager knows his task is to re-discover the centre back who blossomed under his tutelage in the north-east. Build up Bassong's confidence, give him regular football, make him feel loved again in a secure environment where he is one of the main men and City may well have a bargain on their hands. Bassong's pace and athleticism, along with his natural left-footed strengths, were qualities absent from Norwich's backline at Craven Cottage.

One would suspect he starts this afternoon. Trick number two came the following day with confirmation international clearance has been granted for Spanish left-back Javier Garrido. The defender has an impeccable footballing CV. Spells in La Liga, then onto Manchester City for three seasons, before another multi-million pound deal took him to Serie A and Lazio for a two year sojourn.

Garrido has arrived at Carrow Roadon an initial season-long loan deal. The Spaniard revealed to me earlier this week he had plenty of other options, but Norwich's desire to recruit him was the clincher. Here is a man who has become a true European adventurer; but you suspect the rather relaxed surroundings of Norfolk after the madness of the Eternal City, the intense rivalry of Lazio and Roma, met with his approval. The eloquent Spaniard has been a ‘go to’ man rather than a regular if you look at his career appearance record. No shame in that given he has operated at some big European clubs but Norwich could well be a perfect fit at this part of his career cycle.

But Norwich, and Hughton for that matter, were still not finished. Trick three was unveiled early Friday evening with a permanent move for Rennes' Norwegian international midfielder Alexander Tettey. The 26-year-old is a defensive-minded enforcer who can sit in front of a back four and react to danger at source. City were badly exposed by the likes of Mousa Dembele and Damien Duff at Craven Cottage. Holes left vacant were filled with alarmingly regularity by Fulham’s raiding parties, leaving Norwich’s backline in peril on numerous occasions. Tettey has the pedigree to inject a different dimension into a Canaries’ midfield rich in technical ability but perhaps lacking in muscular depth.

The Ghana-bred powerhouse did not sign in time to face Rangers this afternoon, but will be presented to an expectant Carrow Road crowd to bolster the feelgood factor. The storm clouds have lifted. Now for the focus to return to the pitch.