Stand-in City boss Mike Walker has his first injury headache of the week as Canary star Daryl Sutch revealed he has a tweaked hamstring ahead of next Sunday’s City Legends fund-raiser.
The 46-year-old Norwich estate agent was fit and raring to go as the UEFA Cup Class of 93 prepare to play host to ‘Inter Forever’ at Carrow Road.
However, the treadmill has taken its toll, it appears.
“I was fine up until about four days ago when I slightly tweaked the hamstring,” Sutch admitted, as the versatile City star looked to blow the odd cobweb away before Sunday’s big game.
“I’ve been training at the gym every other day, doing lots of running, lots of gym work and managed to get myself down from a hefty weight down to nowhere near my old playing weight but in a good shape and the I managed to give myself a little pull.
“I’ll just have to rest it as much as I can between now and then and see how it is on the day. But other than that, the fitness had been going really, really well!”
Walker does at least have strength in depth with Bryan Gunn’s guest list running to some 25-strong, so Sutch’s return to match action might not need to last the full 90-minutes; a 20-minute run-out is looking par for the course for many of City’s number.
“The last time I played was a charity game six or seven years ago,” he admitted. “I used to do five-a-sides with Scott Howie, Mike Milligan and Rob Newman, but I haven’t played a competitive game of football for a long, long time.”
But you never lose it, right?
“If you never had it, you never lose it,” he joked, as Sutch prepares to lock horns with the likes of Francesco Toldo and Nicola Berti for the touring Italian side.
“The touch doesn’t always go, and you know how to play the game, but it’s just the fitness thing – always has been,” he said.
“And even more so in today’s game – they’re just complete athletes these days. We probably just saw the back end of how training is now with the introduction of the sports scientists and the dieticians; the heart monitors. And that was a culture that came in from Europe so obviously the Inter Milan boys are well-drilled in all of that.”
The question still lingers as to where Sutch’s best position is. At the time he could play anywhere down the right-hand side, a jack of all trades player who was never quite allowed the luxury of becoming the master of one.
It is a question that is met with his usual good humour.
“Best position? Anywhere on the bench,” he laughed, as he joined Messrs Huckerby, Holt and Eadie on the pre-match Press briefing.
“If not, it would be nice to play right-back, but I don’t know what formation Mike is going to play – whether he’s going to go three at the back. It will just be nice to be on the pitch and out there for as long as I can, really. Whether I’m up front or in goal – it’s just nice to be on that pitch.”
Looking back now, Sutch knows that the Class of 93 had something special about them. Half home-grown talent, too.
“That’s the thing – it was a really, really good squad,” said the Lowestoft born star.
“You had some really talented players, but you also had people with a really good work ethic who wanted to do it, wanted to wear the shirt, were all hungry – everything just seemed to gel right.
“It was a fantastic combination.”
Not all of Walker’s making.
“Mike inherited a really good side from Dave Stringer and Dave Williams and added a few faces to it. And, as I say, everything just gelled perfectly.”
A once-in-a-generation moment?
“Because of the finances of the game and how its changed so much, those couple of seasons that we had are never going to be repeated again,” he claimed, though fans of Leicester City and Burnley might beg to differ. It is still possible – just. But takes a unique set of circumstances and players to prise the door open to that European stage in the face of the Big Six – the three London clubs and the three North-West giants don’t give away their top billing easily.
“I’m not sure the fans know just how good those players in that squad were – the likes of Mark Bowen, Ian Crook, Ian Culverhouse. Brilliant, brilliant players. There was a lot of quality there which held it all together.”
Culverhouse is due to return in a coaching capacity. Crook remains in Australia, though centre-half Spencer Prior is making the long-haul home.
“I don’t think his [Culverhouse] legs can take it, but John Polston is coming back so it’ll be good to see Polst and Rob Newman out there,” said Sutch. “So, there’ll a few old boys – I think I’m the fifth or sixth oldest in the squad which is saying something. I can’t remember the last time I said I was one of the older boys in the squad.
“But it’ll be nice to see a few of them putting on the shirt again.”
Norwich City Legends v Inter Forever – Sunday May 20, 2018. Kick-off 2pm.Standard tickets are priced at £9.93 for adults and £1.93 for U18s.
Hospitality packages are also available.
Tickets are available online: tickets.canaries.co.uk, by phone on 01603 721902 or from the ticket offices at Carrow Road, Castle Mall or Chapelfield.
The proceeds from the match will go towards the development of the Community Sports Foundation’s new facility, which will be known as ‘The Nest’, after the Canaries’ former home.
To find out more, visit www.communitysportsfoundation.org.uk/build-the-nest/about-the-nest/