City winger Lee Croft will have a chance to renew an old acquaintance with England's latest defensive star Micah Richards at the Eastlands Stadium, Manchester, on Tuesday, September 25.
Not that it appears in need of much renewal. The third round draw on Saturday morning was barely ten minutes old before Croft was busily sending texts north – Richards' mobile principal among them.
“I was actually on the way to the ground, listening to the draw on the radio in the car with my mum and dad,” said the former Eastlands' trainee.
“There's always certain teams you look out for in a draw and having played for Manchester City, they're always one of them – they're one of the ones that you pay attention to,” said Croft. “So when Norwich's name came out of the hat after them, I was really chuffed.”
And straight onto the text.
“I do keep in touch with them – Micah, Stephen Ireland, Nedum Onuoha, Ishmael (Miller). So, yes, we've already had a bit of banter.”
Just as no doubt his big pal, Bradley Wright-Phillips, did when Southampton faced a similar challenge in the fourth round of last season's FA Cup. Saints lost 3-1 at Eastlands.
“Bradley played them last year – and now I get my chance to go back there,” said Croft. “Hopefully, we can go there and get a better result than they did.”
Whether Richards will lie in wait will be interesting – Sven Goran Eriksson used the second round trip to Bristol City last week as a chance to top up the game-time for some of his fringe players with the likes of both Ireland and Onuoha starting the game.
Richards, fresh from his impressive start to the new campaign, has now graduated on to bigger and better things – not least trying to help England qualify for Euro2008 this week.
According to his former youth and reserve team pal, Richards' ability was never in any real doubt. The one things that has surprised Croft is the rate of his ascent to the footballing heights.
“That's the only thing that has surprised me about Micah,” said Croft. “Just how quickly he's come on – how quickly things have happened for him. But you always knew that he was going to have a big future.”
Interestingly, when the two played together Richards was always a centre-half – his emergence in the Premiership last season came at right-back as his England Under-21 boss Stuart Pearce fast-tracked one of English football's hottest properties into his first team thinking.
“When I was playing with him that's where he always played – centre-half,” said Croft. “And that's where he's always said that he wants to play.
“But I just think that right-back was a quicker way into the team for him; you're less exposed there than at centre-back and to begin with, it was easier for him.”
Run through the team that booked their place into the third round hat and Croft's former pals are getting ever thinner on the ground as the Eriksson revolution continues. Striker Miller is the latest exit – despatched out on loan to West Bromwich Albion.
“To be honest with you, there's very few of the first team that I know now,” said Croft, who arrived in Norfolk last summer as almost the Canaries lone major purchase. for Darren Huckerby – also due to make a retrun to pastures old – there will barely be anyone left at all from his own spell in the blue half of Manchester.
“It's mostly just the young lads that I know – Kasper Schmeichel is another one. I trained with him, played in the ressies with him. And he's a good keeper – and exactly like his dad!” said Croft.
The trip to Eastlands will complete a formidable seven-day spell on the road for the Canaries.
For hard on the heels of the home clash with Crystal Palace on the 15th, comes a trip to The Valley and the chance for ex-Hammers coach Peter Grant to lock horns with his then Upton Park boss, Alan Pardew.
From there it is off to Molineux on the Saturday where the City chief will renew his acquaintance with his former Celtic room-mate Mick McCarthy before everyone packs their bags for the North-West and the midweek Carling Cup clash with Manchester City.
Given the current fragility of the Canary squad, it will be interesting to see how many bodies are left standing come the 25th.
In fairness to the Canary winger, he has been bright and lively at the start of the long, hard campaign that now awaits – even if he could do little to drag a point out of Saturday's contest with his late arrival against Cardiff City.
“It's definitely going to be a tough week – we've got a tough month coming up,” said Croft, with this week's international break giving the Canaries two weeks in which to lick their wounds from this weekend's second-half disaster against the Bluebirds.
“Hopefully, by the time we play City we will have won a few games and we will have picked up a bit of confidence – that's what we need at this moment in time,” said Croft, well aware that even if Eriksson opts not to throw his big pal Micah into battle again, a big examination awaits.
“No matter who they put out on the night, we know that it's going to be a very tough game,” said Croft.