Plenty of the focus has been on Dean Smith's tactics, but what's key for Norwich City is the improvement of relationships between his players.

While some of the problems facing the Canaries may well be linked to Smith's setup, their performances this season have only rarely been entirely cohesive between their forward players, and that's always a problem when you're trying to score enough goals to fire a team to promotion.

Those patterns of play in the final third are where they've come up short at times this season. There have been many games where that final pass, that little bit of creativity, that carelessness around the opposition box, has been what's cost them.

I know people look at the goal scorers - Teemu Pukki is proven at this level and Josh Sargent has started the season very well - but I really believe there's more to come in the final third and that's something which Smith will be working extra hard on.

The Pink Un: Sargent and Pukki have impressed this season, says Sutton, but must improve their footballing relationships with others to thrive.Sargent and Pukki have impressed this season, says Sutton, but must improve their footballing relationships with others to thrive. (Image: Jamie Johnston/Focus Images Ltd)

It's not just about finishing, and players staying out and doing extra shooting practice. It's the bit before that which is my biggest concern. It's about creating enough clear chances, which I don't think Norwich have this season.

That connection between forwards and those supplying them is so vital in any team's attack, as I found during the most successful parts of my Norwich career. It's about building an understanding, and knowing each other's game. 

Ian Crook was a really good craftsman, he had a wonderful weight of pass and we had a little free-kick routine where he'd place the ball down, I'd peel and make a run and he'd find me. I scored a couple of goals in the 1993-94 season from that routine. It's about details as a striker, knowing when the ball's coming in.

You have little routines and understandings, which hasn't quite clicked with Sargent and Pukki. They're both good players, but it's not just about them linking up. It's about other players supplying them with passes, and there hasn't been that understanding.

The best example of that in recent seasons was between Pukki and Emi Buendia. Every time Buendia got on the half turn, Pukki would make the run, and more often than not he was found. Their relationship was telepathic at times. That's something which Norwich have lacked, those combinations.

I played with various strikers, but when Efan Ekoku came into the Norwich team that really suited by game, and we had a great understanding. He had great pace, and I always used to try to help balls into space for him. I then went on to have partnerships with the likes of Alan Shearer and Henrik Larsson, and they always helped both me and (I hope) my partner to play better.

The Pink Un: Sutton hopes Sargent and Pukki can reproduce the sort of partnership he enjoyed with fellow ex-City man Efan Ekoku.Sutton hopes Sargent and Pukki can reproduce the sort of partnership he enjoyed with fellow ex-City man Efan Ekoku. (Image: Archant)

Unfortunately not everyone's lucky enough to have Henrik to do their job for them, but at Championship level City certainly have enough to blow most teams away if they can develop those partnerships.

These are skills that take time to hone, however, and for that reason Smith will be pleased that he's got this break to work with his players during the World Cup. Football players are routinely put through the wringer by the schedules they're subjected to, but the Championship is notorious for its even more relentless calendar.

I also hope the lack of momentum in either direction allows for a balanced view of the job Smith is doing, in the context of a tough league. Of course, the Middlesbrough game was a huge one for the morale of the fanbase going into an extended period without any games, and losing that game has left supporters understandably concerned.

But City are fifth in the Championship table and two wins away from the automatic promotion places they hope to finish in. After the turmoil of last season's relegation and against a backdrop of significant expectation, Norwich have stayed within touching distance of their end goal and still have more than half of the season left to get there.

That task will be made a whole lot easier, however, if they can form and develop those relationships so common in good attacking sides.

SUTTON EXTRA

Every reader of this column will know how important the issue of head injuries, and more importantly how they're dealt with, in football is to me.

For decades the wellbeing of players has been overlooked in favour of the tiny advantages teams and organisations hope to gain from keeping potentially seriously hurt players on the pitch.

Rarely is that spelt out more clearly than it was in England's opening World Cup game against Iran, when Iranian goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand was allowed to play on temporarily having been treated for a head injury for around 10 minutes.

The Pink Un: Iran goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand was originally allowed to continue playing after sustaining a head injury against England in the World Cup.Iran goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand was originally allowed to continue playing after sustaining a head injury against England in the World Cup. (Image: PA)

It's crazy. Millions of people are watching this game around the world and few of them would have said he was in a fit state to carry on. I'm told there are medical 'spotters' within the stadium who will keep an eye on these collisions and alert the relevant people.

They certainly weren't needed on this occasion, when the damage done to Beiranvand was clear to see.

I keep banging on about temporary concussion substitutes being a way forward. It wouldn't eliminate concussions, but it will improve player welfare. I don't get why it isn't being brought in now, given it inevitably will be.

The fact is, unfortunately, that footballing authorities don't care about player welfare. The head injury protocol just isn't good enough in any way, shape or form, and that incident highlighted how embarrassing the handling of this situation is from FIFA.

Everybody could have seen what should have happened with Beiranvand, and we don't know what long-term damage that could have had on him.

It isn't a surprise to me. This has happened numerous times this season and we've talked about it, but I'm afraid actions speak louder than words, and there have been enough warnings that action must be taken as soon as possible.

We all wish Beiranvand well and hope he's OK, but yesterday served to highlight the issue, and the fact that its handling is totally unsatisfactory.