Norwood is the joker in the Ipswich Town pack... but flick a switch and the striker is all business
PUBLISHED: 06:00 18 July 2019
James Norwood was signed by Ipswich Town to spearhead the Blues' forward line. ANDY WARREN spoke to him at the club's training base in Germany
To suggest James Norwood has settled quickly at Ipswich Town would be something of an understatement.
This interview was conducted at the club's training base in Germany and, after spending just a few hours in the squad's company, it's clear to see the 28-year-old has become a central figure just a matter of days into his Ipswich career.
During our conversation he spoke of his already blossoming connection with the club's players and supporters, as well as bullishly about his and his team's chances on the pitch this season.
Within a few minutes of our chat finishing he had commandeered the keys to the cherry picker from which analyst George Buckley was watching training, leaving him stranded 20ft in the air, facing in the opposite direction, before running straight onto the practice pitch and finding the net regularly in an attack-v-defence drill.
Then just a few minutes after that he emerged to watch a staff game dressed only in club chef Adam Gooderham's apron, leaving very little to the imagination and his team-mates in stitches.
He was then on target just four minutes into his first appearance, against Fortuna Dusseldorf in the Interwetten Cup on Sunday, showing many of the qualities that made him so highly sought-after this summer and whetting the appetite for what hopefully lies ahead.
Later that night, as members of the squad borrowed bicycles from their hotel to cycle into the village of Herzlake for a well-deserved evening off, the striker took a tumble and crashed onto the quiet country road.
As is so often the case in the life of James Norwood, the incident was caught on camera and posted online.
And that's the beauty of Ipswich Town's newest goal hope. Nothing's off limits.
"I put it all on there unless it's something that can get me fined," he said.
"I like to give a little insight into my life. I'm just me.
"I like talking to fans and having a bit of banter. I'm helping people understand more about me.
"It's important to have a relationship with the fans because once they're behind you you're all riding a crest of a wave and you don't stop.
"I scared Toto (Nsiala) the other day and put that on there and I like doing silly little videos like that to show everyone we're together and having fun. We're people with personalities and it's important to show that to the fans.
"I'm a magnet for bad luck. I do everything I can to do things right but then something happens. If I put it all online at least someone can have a laugh at it.
"I've locked myself out of my flat the day before the game and needed to tweet to get a locksmith out, there's been flat tyres, parking tickets, cars and houses being broken into. Everything happens to me.
"I'm not looking for trouble but I'm sure it will find me at some point, even somewhere quiet like Suffolk. Something will happen in the house or something like that.
"It will happen."
It quickly becomes clear that there are two sides to Norwood which make him the player and man he is.
He likes a laugh and makes no excuses for that. It's clear already that he is an extremely positive addition to the Ipswich Town group.
But he knows there's a time when the laughter needs to stop and that's the reason why this striker has netted double figures in each of the last seven seasons and worked his way back to League One after a decade away.
History suggests he gets that balance just right.
"I'm in the Ipswich WhatsApp group now but it's not massively busy at the moment because we've all been together in Germany," he said.
"I'm going to try and kick a few things off I think and then see what happens. I've got a few lookalikes I can dish out to get things started.
"The WhatsApp group is where you can finish training and then chuck a little grenade in and see what happens. "I play seriously but I like to have fun on social media.
"We have Chambo and Skuse (Luke Chambers and Cole Skuse) who are older pros who like to have a laugh, but when you watch them on the training pitch they are the first ones on and last ones off. That's the example you want to set to the lads.
"It's difficult being a young lad playing football and sometimes you don't know where you stand, but the group is really good and I want to help them integrate. I want to show them that you can enjoy your football but it's ultimately about winning and improving as a player.
"There are lads here who have a real chance to play at the highest level and I'll be telling them if they're not doing things right that they are wasting their opportunity."
Ipswich eyes have been on Norwood since interest in the striker was revealed in March, with the striker ultimately finishing the season on 32 goals and winning promotion with Tranmere at Wembley.
His arrival has been much-heralded and he comes with expectation on his shoulders.
It's a pressure he welcomes.
"The fans are expecting me to score goals and the more I train with the lads the more they will know about my runs and how I work," he said.
"I love that pressure.
"I've got someone like Alan Judge playing behind me as well as people like Nolo (Jon Nolan), Flynn (Downes), Robbo (Jordan Roberts and Kayden (Jackson). So many players with forward-thinking ability.
"My role doesn't change and I will be in the box to score goals and hustle to make life hard for defenders, that's the way I play and it will get me to whatever level I'm supposed to be at. It might mean I need to get quicker, stronger and better with the ball, that's the only thing that needs to change.
"I want to be here and score goals. We have players who create chances and if you can do that for a striker then hopefully more often or not they go in."
Norwood on… leaving Tranmere
"It was like a family to me," he said.
"It felt like a massive club but at the same time felt like a small one because we were all so close.
"It was a massive decision for me to make and one I never really made until four or five days before I signed for Ipswich.
"We got to Ipswich, went to League One and then I was thinking 'Ipswich are in League One too' but in footballing terms I've got to try and play at the highest level I can.
"I think signing for Ipswich with the manager we have and the players we've got, and the chance of going up again, I just want to come out of football when I've finish and feel like I've played as high as I can."
Norwood on… the move to Ipswich
"It's the biggest of my career without a shadow of a doubt," he said.
"I've been grafting away in the lower leagues, having a good season last season. The gaffer here came and watched and I met him a couple of weeks ago, with things then going quite quickly.
"I bought into what he was saying and the way he wanted to plays, so fit-wise it was perfect for me. There were teams in the Championship that were an option, but for me it was about doing something special.
"I've got two promotions in the last two years and I want more.
Norwood on… being watched by Lambert
"One of the lads told me that they saw him there just before the game but I was getting that every week, that's the kind of season I was having," he said.
"It's nice to be watched but at the same time you have to perform.
"We won that game 1-0 and I scored the goal.
Norwood on… Town's trip to Germany
"The first day for me was saying hello to everyone and then buying into the squad quite quickly.
"It's a bit different when there are six or seven new lads in there because you form a bond with them, but at the moment it's been me, big Tommy (Holy) and then Luke Garbutt as well.
"It's been easy to integrate and I've been trying to speak to everyone by being a bit of a social butterfly, making some lads laugh.
"Playing with them is the important thing, though. If you have a good relationship with them off the pitch then on the pitch things can become easier.
"There are some characters here, that's for sure, but it's difficult to be like that when you're having the sort of season that happened here last season. It's not about laughing and joking.
"We're at this level now and we have to start afresh and look to be at the top of the table. It's important for us to keep spirits up because at some point we're going to hit a soft spot and it's important for the characters to be able to bring the lads back up and be ready for the next game."
Norwood on… differences between Ipswich and Tranmere
"I've been texting my friends back in Liverpool and they're astounded by some of the things that we have here, like a chef travelling with us to Germany and things like that.
"It's a whole new world for me and I feel really fortunate to be experiencing that now for the next few years. It's all the little things you don't really think of as a football, it's all covered.
"There's a respect level between the younger pros and these lads who have played in the Championship for 10 or 12 years, which is exactly what you need.
"The young lads are willing to learn, they're sharp, and the training has been brilliant. Seeing how good the lads really were has taken me back a little bit.
"Everyone's a good footballer and everyone's a really good athlete which is important because we can know rely on everyone."