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James Norwood: What Next For The Football League’s Most Fearsome Striker?

Who can stop the goalscoring sensation?
Who can stop the goalscoring sensation?

Only one man has hit 30 league goals in England’s top four leagues this season, yet the man who has scored more than anyone else had only made three Football League appearances before this season.

The man in question has not found the step up difficult, scooping the League Two Golden Boot and a place in the EFL Team of the Year.

Tranmere striker James Norwood has incredibly scored 55 goals in 99 games over the past two seasons a record that has lead the Whites to within 90 minutes of League One, a level they were last at in 2014 before two consecutive relegations. A goal per game ratio like that has, of course, made it difficult for Tranmere to keep hold of their main man.

He told The Sportsman: “I’ve achieved good things with Tranmere and hope to achieve some more. For me, it's there for me to stay and I’d love to stay but I also have that ambition to play a lot higher. I’d love to do that with Tranmere and that is ultimately the ambition.”

Norwood will be taking to the Wembley turf for the third time in three seasons this weekend as the Whites take on Newport. Last season he scored the goal that took Tranmere back to the Football League against all the odds, as teammate Liam Ridehalgh was sent off after just 48 seconds and manager Micky Mellon was forced into making three substitutions before half-time but despite that they battled on to a remarkable 2-1 win.

That promotion was a long time coming for Rovers and Norwood. In the previous campaign, they had finished second in the league, but missed out promotion in the play-off final to Norwood’s former club, Forest Green Rovers. They avenged that defeat this season in the play-off semi-finals this season, beating Mark Cooper’s side 2-1 over those two legs. Of course, it was that man again who scored the vital goal in the away leg, which saw none other than icon that Mike Dean celebrating wildly in the crowd.

Norwood’s career started with Exeter in League One but he failed to make the grade there and instead had to fight his way through non-league. After loan spells at Sutton, Forest Green and Eastbourne, he made a permanent move to the Forest Green Rovers who gave his the platform to develop and start scoring goals.

He was called up by England’s C team and managed to bag a hat-trick for them against Bermuda before Tranmere came in for him in 2015. It was an offer too good to turn down and he has been their main man ever since. Ninety-two goals in 188 games has made him a cult hero at Prenton Park over the past four seasons but it is his last two seasons that have made some big clubs sit up and take notice.

Now, if Tranmere win on Saturday or not it looks as if Norwood will be playing League One football next season. Ipswich are reported to be close to signing the 28-year-old in a move that would see him increase his wages and give him and move him closer to where he grew up. It may come down to the fact that despite a possible promotion, Tranmere will not be able to come close to Ipswich’s wage and signing on offer, as the Tractor Boys look to rebuild after relegation from the Championship.

Having never earned a huge amount and now at the age of 28, Norwood must put himself first as this could be his best chance he gets to make a lot of money from football.

If this is the last game Norwood plays for Tranmere, their fans can have nothing but respect for what he has done for the club. Of course, it is a two-way relationship and the club will be desperate to keep him having brought his career on leaps and bounds in recent years but Wembley this weekend will once again provide another, perhaps concluding chapter to Norwood’s Tranmere story.

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