A MAJOR indicator of a footballer’s happiness is how settled he feels at a club.
For Oliver Norwood, therefore, life is pretty darned good right now following his summer move from Manchester United to Huddersfield Town.
Not only are the Terriers riding high in the Championship table but the midfielder already has two goals to his name along with a string of impressive performances.
The Northern Ireland international puts much of this down to how at home he felt at Huddersfield almost the moment he first walked through the door after bringing to an end a 14-year association with the Old Trafford club.
This much became evident to Norwood on only the second weekend of the season when his boyhood idols came to town in the Championship.
“Burnley have always been the club I support,” said the 21-year-old speaking at Town’s Canalside training complex ahead of today’s home game with Watford.
“I had a season ticket when I was younger and I could see Turf Moor from my mum and dad’s house when I was growing up.
“So, when I saw the fixtures and Burnley were our second home game then I felt really excited. I’d played against them last season for Coventry City when I was on loan, but it didn’t mean as much as this year because I am a Huddersfield player now.
“I really wanted to win as I knew a load of my mates were going to be in the away end that afternoon.
“They gave me a bit of stick during the game. I can’t repeat what it was but it wasn’t nice. And these were my mates, don’t forget.
“So, when we scored (the first goal in a 2-0 win through Joel Lynch) from a corner, I couldn’t resist turning round and giving them a little wave. It was a bit of banter but I also think it showed me how much at home I already felt at Huddersfield.
“Leaving a club like United isn’t an easy decision but I felt it had to be made. And, so far, it has been a dream move for me.
“Results have been good and the team has come together well, while the spirit in the camp is fantastic. Everyone is loving their football.”
Norwood first signed schoolboy forms with the 12-times Premier League champions at the age of just seven. Leaving Old Trafford, therefore, was a big deal, even if his final few years at the club had failed to yield a first-team appearance.
He was named in a couple of Sir Alex Ferguson’s squads, most notably a Champions League tie against Wolfsburg in Germany. But that elusive first game in a red shirt never materialised.
Instead, his experience of first-team football came on loan via stays at Carlisle United, Scunthorpe United and Coventry City. Had Norwood signed the contract United offered him during the summer, chances are he would again be plying his trade out on loan.
Such a prospect did not appeal to the Burnley-born midfielder, who had seen how well so many of his former United team-mates had done after cutting their ties with Old Trafford.
“You get to the point where you get fed up of not playing for the first team,” he said. “I also saw how well all the lads did over at Hull.
“I grew up with lads like Corry (Evans), James Chester and Joe Dudgeon, who will all tell you that the best thing they did in their careers was sign for Hull. I looked at them and thought, ‘I fancy a bit of that’.
“Loans are okay but they can also be tough. I went to Scunthorpe at the start of the year. I was on my own in an apartment in Scunthorpe, which – no disrespect – is not the nicest place I know.
“I was stuck in there after training every day, spending 12, 13 or 14 hours on my own. It made things tough. I decided in the summer that I wasn’t going to sign a contract.
“The big thing about United is they teach you that it is a big wide world out there; every man for himself. They teach you all those lessons, so when you do leave then you are equipped. We all know what to expect.
“Having said that, it was still a big decision to leave. I’d been there since I was seven so you get into the way of how things are done at United.
“It is every kid’s dream to play for the club. They are the biggest one in the world and I have nothing but fantastic things to say about how I was brought up there. So to walk away was a tough decision but it had to be made for the good of my own career, and at the minute, it feels like a great decision as Huddersfield is turning out to be a great move.
“I did have other options as Barnsley were in for me. I spoke to Keith (Hill, Reds manager) and his assistant. They put across their plans for the club. But then I spoke to the manager and chairman here at Huddersfield and that made my mind up.
“I wanted to be at the top of the league and there was a real ambition here. Our league position shows that. I want to push on and play in the Premier League one day.”
Fresh from impressive back-to-back 3-1 away wins at Sheffield Wednesday and Blackpool that saw Norwood on the scoresheet in both games, Simon Grayson’s side return to home soil today for the visit of Watford.
Tuesday will then see Leicester City travel to the John Smith’s Stadium before the Terriers make the trip a week today to Birmingham City for a reunion with former manager Lee Clark. It is a tough trio of games in the lead-up to the fast-approaching international break but confidence levels are high following the manner of Monday’s win at Bloomfield Road against one of the Championship’s strongest outfits.
Norwood said: “We want to do something this season and I think we have shown already that we are able to compete with anyone.
“Monday was a massive result for us. I think it sent out a statement. I said before Sheffield Wednesday that we are not in the league to make the numbers up.
“Blackpool have been in the Premier League and they are up there in this league, year after year. They were unfortunate not to go up last year.
“But we went there with our game plan and got at them. We showed that we have some real quality here. What we must now do is do the same against Watford, as anything less and we will get beat.”