City favourite Darren Huckerby will be thrust right back into the limelight tomorrow after boss Glenn Roeder revealed that the Canary talisman would be in the starting line-up for the Carrow Road clash with Barnsley.
It has been an up and down season for the wing wizard and Roeder admitted only last week that Huckerby has “already made his own mind up” on his Norwich future.
Hip problems and all, it would seem that the curtain could finally be coming down on a glorious Canary career, but Roeder was giving no clues away as to whether we could yet see an extended tour of duty for the 31-year-old.
All he would say is that Huckerby will be let off the leash to face the Tykes tomorrow. And that he's expecting a big performance?
“He's playing,” said Roeder. “I've told him to go and produce. Go and make us some goals, go and score us some goals. Produce.
“I can only give players a stage. I can't play on it for them – go and produce a performance that Norwich supporters over the last four years have come to expect off him ? an end product.”
With an air of mystery still surrounding his future, whether he'll plying his trade in America, Canada or in Norfolk is yet to be seen. And the Canary chief stressed that there is a still a huge job to do before anyone can start dreaming about next season.
With Mark Fotheringham, Gary Doherty and Huckerby all out of contract come the summer, on top of the seven exiting loanees and Dion Dublin's retirement, it promises to be a busy pre-season for Roeder and Co.
But whilst minds wander towards the summer break and beyond, the City boss is wary of looking too far ahead. It's still very much 'game on!'
“We've got a job to do here first,” Roeder added. “It's my job to make sure people don't get too lax or too relaxed around the place. We've still got a big job to do this season.
“There are lots of games and lots of points, and at an appropriate time we'll talk about next season. That's not just Hucks – that's Fozzy and Doc, that's all sorts of people. This is not the appropriate time.
“If we start getting into contract talks now when there's a big job to do they'll take their eye off the ball. The one thing they have all got to do is keep their eye on the ball, and that includes Hucks.
“He's come in to see me a few times and it's the complete opposite of what his agent has been saying, so they're either speaking in a different language or they're playing games.
“But he's told me he'll be here for the last game of the season against Sheffield Wednesday and I haven't found Hucks to be anything other than a truthful young man.”
Back to tomorrow and with a Championship showdown with FA Cup heroes Barnsley on the horizon, Roeder revealed that there were no new concerns on the injury front.
With Messrs Dublin, Fotheringham and Russell suspended, the Colney coaching staff have not got too many options at their disposal ? especially in the middle of the park.
But that did not stop Roeder selecting his troops for battle in the aftermath of that 4-0 drubbing at Leicester last weekend.
You can never accuse the City boss of not being decisive?
“We're ok. There are the three suspensions but other than that, we're ok. I've had my battle plan since about 6.00 last Saturday night. It was easy for me.
“And the response from the boys has been brilliant, right from Monday morning. We went out and trained and it was exactly how I wanted to be.
“They're banned from even mentioning the game last week. We have ploughed on, as we always have over these last few months, working towards the next game.
“We were hugely disappointed, but there haven't been any bad vibes this week in training. It was going to happen at some stage, but now we move forward.”
As to who will partner Matty Pattison in the engine room is up for debate, but one player that continues to impress behind the scenes is Reading loan starlet Alex Pearce.
His good form in training has pushed him to the forefront of Roeder's mind. We just might see the 19-year-old make his Canary debut tomorrow.
“Alex Pearce has got a chance. Whether he plays or not tomorrow we'll have to wait and see, but he's the sort of player I'd love to sign. He's a man at 19 and he'll have a good career.
“His attitude is fantastic and he's an old head on young shoulders. Alex trains tremendously well and we'll have to see whether he gets the opportunity to make his debut tomorrow.”
As for City's recent Spanish arrival, defender Juan Velasco, he has received the all-clear from the various international governing bodies. The former Atletico Madrid right-back is available; whether he's fit enough to start a game yet remains to be seen.
“Juan's international clearance has come through,” Roeder added. “It's for me to decide whether he will be used tomorrow.
“There is a bit of a concern over his fitness ? he hasn't played for about seven or eight months, in terms of a competitive match. But we've had plenty of practice matches out there and he's vastly experienced. I don't think it will be a problem.
“You could argue that La Liga is the strongest league in the world and he's acquitted himself very well there down the years. I don't think playing for Norwich will hold any fears for him.”
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