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Tonight Fulham have announced the loan signing of Oliver Norwood from Brighton and Hove Albion, meaning that the midfielder joins a long list of fellow Northern Irish men to play for the Whites. The deal will see him stay at the Cottage for the duration of the 2017/18 season in search of first team football after being told that his chances at Brighton may be limited. Norwood played a key part in Albion’s promotion winning campaign last season so it is surprising that they have let him go as I think he would have went on to be a consistent performer there. To say that I’m pleased with this addition to the squad would be an understatement as I have been an admirer of the midfielder and his style of play for a long time. Below is an article that I wrote back in March for the match day programme of Northern Ireland based club, Lisburn Distillery. I was focusing on a different member of the Northern Ireland squad in each article so I hope that you can excuse the Northern Irish focus throughout!

Oliver Norwood- written March, 2017

“For my player focus this week I will be looking at solid and dependable midfielder, Oliver Norwood. The Burnley born midfielder has represented both England and Northern Ireland at youth level but committed to Northern Ireland in 2009. Since making his debut in 2010, Norwood has made himself a regular in the Northern Ireland squad and has gained 43 caps to date.

Norwood started his career at Manchester United and made a bit of a name for himself as a free kick specialist during his time at the youth academy there. He eventually made the step up the reserves in 2009 and in the same year was called up to the first team squad for a Champions League fixture against Wolfsburg away but didn’t make the final squad of 18. It was still a sure sign of Alex Ferguson’s confidence in Norwood and the midfielder was offered a contract extension in 2012, but he decided to reject it in favour of finding regular first team football elsewhere.

His first permanent move away from Old Trafford was to Huddersfield Town where he played consistently for two years before making a further move to fellow Championship side Reading. Again Norwood was a regular feature in a side with their sights set on Premier League Promotion and his performances there and for the National side prompted a move to Brighton and Hove Albion in the summer of 2016.

The move to Brighton shows that as Norwood becomes more experienced he is continually moving on to bigger challenges. When he joined Huddersfield in 2012, they were very much a side aiming for survival after gaining promotion into the Championship the year before. Reading was a step up, a team aiming to finish top half while Brighton, just missing out on promotion last year, are a club with high hopes this season. They are currently battling it out for top spot with Newcastle and I would be very surprised if they weren’t playing in the Premier League next season allowing Norwood the opportunity to step up again.

I watched Brighton recently play against Fulham at Craven Cottage and, despite Fulham being the better team on the day, it was Brighton who came away with 3 points with a real ‘smash and grab’ effort. Norwood played all 90 minutes in a game where the midfield had to be very alert defensively. That, along with other performances this season, proves that Norwood can play successfully in a team that might find themselves under the cosh at times, but that can still gain positive results. Northern Ireland are not going to be a team that dominate a lot of games. Our system under O’Neill has been built on the foundation of a solid defence and a midfield that are going to have to do an awful lot of pressing and Norwood can fit very well into this system.

At only 25, there is a lot more to come from Oliver Norwood. The partnership that he has formed with Davis has been crucial in the national side set up and I believe that if he continues to learn from Davis and gets his chance in the Premier League next season, Norwood could play a pivotal role in our team for many campaigns to come.”

Fulham have had a lot of success with players from the Emerald Isle before now with the likes of Aaron Hughes and Chris Baird becoming firm fan favourites, and I am confident that Norwood can continue the trend. His hard-working approach along with his eye for a pass should fit soundly into an already very strong midfield and I fully expect him to be a success at the Cottage.

#COYW