Mark Neale takes a look at Ricky van Wolfswinkel’s struggles since joining Norwich City from Sporting Lisbon in 2013.

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vn wolfSummer 2013 and fans of the English Premier League club Norwich City are in the midst of an ever building state of excitement. The reason for the cause of such emotions was the fact the followers of the “canaries” finally got to see their club’s record signing.

Dutch striker Ricky van Wolfswinkel, whose signing had been announced in March arrived from Portuguese club Sporting CP, the classy striker was what was needed to propel the club from Norfolk to the higher reaches of the premier league. Immediately “the wolf” became the poster boy of Norwich city as they prepared to better their 11th place finish of the previous season. The 24 year old had scored 45 goals in his previous two seasons in Portugal including nine in the Europa league, his pedigree was unquestioned especially when you take into account his father-in-law was Johan Neeskens who was more than happy to tell anyone who wanted to listen about the virtues of this slim but gifted striker. Entrusted with the number nine shirt worn by fan legend Grant Holt, Van Wolfswinkel was the exact opposite of his predecessor. Slight of frame and full of guile he was a natural goalscorer whereas Holt was the stereo typical burly English center forward.

The season got off to a great start for the wolf, scoring on his premier league debut against Everton with a well-taken goal, but that was to be as good as it got for the Dutchman from Woudenberg, as he and the club struggled to get goals and results. He was eventually sacrificed for the Holt-esque Swedish striker Johan Elmander.

With Norwich’s relegation almost confirmed and after an extended period of absence from first team duties Van Wolfswinkel was given a surprise start against Fulham by then caretaker manager Neil Adams, hoping his show of faith would resurrect the fallen Dutchman. This turned out to be the exact opposite, Norwich were losing and pushing for a goal. The ball found the wolf unmarked in the penalty area this was the chance to repay the fans and managers faith but for some reason he passed the ball to no one, allowing the ball to be cleared.

The financial package that came with Van Wolfswinkel’s signing meant that Norwich simply could not afford to have him on the wage bill for the 2014-15 English championship season, so a deal was agreed with French Ligue 1 side St. Etienne. A season-long loan with a 6 million euro option to make the deal permanent, again Van Wolfswinkel scored on his debut but faded, scoring only four more times and only completing three full games from December until the end of the season. Unsurprisingly the French side declined to take up the buyout option so a return to Norfolk beckoned.

Another season and another loan this time to La Liga with Real Betis alongside fellow Dutchman Rafael van der Vaart for the 2015-16 season, this proved to be as productive as his first season in England, seventeen appearances produced just the solitary goal, admittedly his season was disrupted by injury.

But again the striker who held the hopes of so many Norwich City fans three seasons ago finds himself back in Norfolk unsure of where he will be plying his trade this upcoming season. The wolf is entering the last year of his four-year deal, and with the canaries once again in the second tier of English football it really is tough to see the where the twice-capped Dutchman goes from here. Is he prepared to try and get Norwich promoted, do the club want him there or are they looking for suitors to take him off their hands, these questions as yet are unanswered.

But what is clear Ricky van Wolfswinkel is not the first or will be the last Dutchman to make the transition to the Premier league and struggle. The question for Ricky is, does he have the mental strength to get over these torrid last three season’s and make his career a success, being only 27 he does have time on his side but can he find a club to give him a chance.

Mark Neale (32 Posts)