Former Canary coach Steve Foley reckons that City star Darren Huckerby still has at least another “two or three years in him” as the pair renew their old acquaintance at Portman Road this Sunday.
It will, in every likelihood, be a major milestone in the 32-year-old's Norwich career – the 200th time he has worn a City shirt in anger.
With just three more games left after the trip to Suffolk – the back-to-back home games against league leaders West Bromwich Albion and Queen's Park Rangers and the away trip to Sheffield Wednesday on the final day of the season – Huckerby could end this season on the 203-game mark.
It is whether he racks up No204 in a Canary shirt that is one of the biggest questions for the summer to answer. For once the dust finally settles on this campaign then all parties concerned are expected to sit down and ponder 'What next?' contract-wise.
In the meantime, however, Foley is convinced that the Norwich winger still has plenty left in the tank as he and the Town management team sit down after last night's 1-1 draw with FA Cup finalists Cardiff City and begin to plot their derby-day plans for Norfolk's star turn.
?I think Huckerby has still got two or three years left in him – at least,” said Foley, who for three years was Huckerby's first team coach at Colney before his sudden exit in May, 2006, and the opportunity to join a Portman Road set-up little more than 30 minutes from his long-time Essex home.
“Knowing the boy he is probably the fittest boy at the football club,” added Foley. “His body fat has always been the lowest and I would be very surprised if he decided to hang up his boots ? there would probably be a reason why.”
There are unlikely to be few people better versed in the ways of East Anglian football than the 54-year-old Town coach. 'Technical skills coach', to give him his official Portman Road title.
He has, after all, now coached at both Norwich and Ipswich. His playing days, however, belonged to the U's where he made 283 league appearances, scoring 54 goals, before a serious knee injury curtailed his career.
He was back at Layer Road – potentially for the last time – last weekend when Town's faltering play-off charge was hit by a 2-0 defeat by Geraint Williams' men.
It all looks too little too late to save Colchester's Championship skin this season and, in all likelihood, they will start their new life at Cuckoo Farm in League One next August. For the Canaries, however, last weekend's 2-0 win over Burnley – coupled to that 5-1 romp against the U's a fortnight earlier has put them within touching distance of the finishing line.
Needless to say, Foley has clearly been keeping a keen eye on the fortunes of both his former employers as he, Town boss Jim Magilton and his No2 Bryan Klug look to keep Ipswich's play-off dreams alive at the other end of the table.
?I always say that you get 46 points at the start of the season. The FA give you that ? every match starts at 0-0,” he said. ?Over the season if you give away some points then there's a chance you will be relegated. That's down to each individual team whether it be Norwich or anybody.”
It fell, of course, to Roeder to deliver the points that the Canaries needed to survive. Given that they had eight at the end of October when the former West Ham United and Newcastle United chief succeeded the luckless Peter Grant, even 46 points looked a distant target. To be on 52 going into the final derby showdown of the season remains some achievement.
?I suppose Glenn was on a win-win situation because if he keeps them up he has done a great job – but if they go down I suppose Peter Grant would have got the blame,” said Foley. ?So I suppose it was a good time to take over.”
This weekend's trip to Portman Road will also be the last occasion Town fans see Dion Dublin in competitive action. The 38-year-old was handed a near standing ovation by the Bristol City faithful as was substituted mid-way through the second period at Ashton Gate.
Whether in the heat of a derby battle the Ipswich faithful will put tribal loyalties aside and salute Dublin's 20-year service to the professional game is another matter. Foley, at least, is a fan and wishes the Canary No9 well on his farewell tour of the Championship.
“Dion has been a great servant to football in general ? not just Norwich. He is a great advert to kids in that if you look after yourself you can play on for a long time,” said the Town coach.
Given the change-around in playing staff since Foley and then manager Nigel Worthington parted company in the summer of 2006, familiar faces will be in short supply. Of the 16 that featured against Burnley, only four would have had any contact with Foley – Huckerby, Gary Doherty, Jason Shackell and, briefly, for his first tour of duty at Carrow Road, Darel Russell.
Enough, it seems, for a few, pre-derby exchanges.
?I still keep in contact with a few of them and the banter will be flying around this week,” said Foley, well aware of how pivotal this particular game could prove to the fortunes of either side. Ipswich can ill-afford to drop any more points at home in their chase for sixth spot; Norwich at least have the cushion of two more home games to come in terms of their own survival prospects.
Even then, there's not too much margin for error.
?It's strange how football throws these things up,” he said. “Maybe they thought they were comfortable and just when they thought they had cracked you get a slap in the face and before you know it you're back in it (relegation). That's what's great about this league ? anyone can beat anyone on any given day.”
Which will, inevitably, have everyone on the edge of their seats come derby day.
?The derby games are for the fans. If your team can come away with the win, then it's bragging rights. From the fans' point of view it's just important we win them. But at the end of the day it's just three points – and that's all you're after.”
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