Canary hero Darren Huckerby finally got a chance to say a few Carrow Road 'Good-byes!' this afternoon before disappearing into the sunset with membership of the 'Greatest Ever!' Norwich City team safely secured.
On his less-than-favoured right, one presumes – given that Darren Eadie was the other winger voted in to that all-time, top team by City supporters. At least with a central midfield pairing of Ian Crook and Martin Peters, Huckerby wouldn't be short of service as he looked to sling a ball or two into the box for Messrs Sutton and Roberts.
“You can't have everything,” was Huckerby's succinct response to the inevitable question about the manner of his departure – the fact that he didn't get a chance to follow his long-time pal Dion Dublin on one, final lap of honour around Carrow Road; that it was only after the final game of the season away at Hillsborough that Canary boss Glenn Roeder announced that Huckerby's City contract was not about to be renewed.
Today, however, and the 32-year-old, two-time City Player of the Year at least got the chance to say his farewells to the 3,000-plus supporters who attended the club's 'Greatest Ever!' gathering of a famous old faces and some bright, young things from the world of pop.
“Today was a great day – not just for me, but for the rest of the players,” he added, after being elevated to that all-time, 'Greatest Ever' XI and having been duly granted a rapturous reception from the gathered Canary faithful.
“I've been very lucky while I've been here – I've played some good football and it's nice to be recognised. And, like I say, it's a great day, not just for me but for the rest of the players.”
The fact that Huckerby is unlikely ever to walk out again in front of a Carrow Road crowd again is, only now, starting to sink in. Pastures new await – on the other side of the Pond, if his big pal Adam Drury is to be believed. The City full-back's future summer holiday plans look set to revolve around a week or two in the States, apparently.
“It's strange,” admitted Huckerby. “I took my kids to the cinema the other day and I was driving past it [Carrow Road]; it was empty and I just had a little thought to myself: 'I'm never going to play there again…'
“So it's stange – and that's how it sometimes hits you. But that's life – the club's got to move on and I've got to move on. The things that I've done here – the winning the league – that will be remembered for ever. So they can't take that away from me…”
For obvious reasons, Huckerby's final appearance proved to be one of this afternoon's highlights. He was, however, not the only famous, Canary face on parade as the club's UEFA Cup heroes returned in number with then boss Mike Walker winning the 'slot' as the 'Greatest Ever' manager of that 'Greatest Ever XI'.
From that team, came the two 'Greatest Ever' full-backs – Ian Culverhouse and Mark Bowen; Canary goalkeeping legend Bryan Gunn did, however, have to make way between the posts for a certain Kevin Keelan, who had flown in from his Florida home to attend this weekend's special celebration.
Huckerby's place in such esteemed company would have long been assured – whether or not he had been offered a new Canary deal. Without one, and the tide of popular emotion that has followed the news of his exit duly swept him into that 'Greatest Ever XI'.
“They've gone a little bit crazy, but I think it's all down to the fact that they hold me in such high regard – and the fans are allowed to say what they want, but now it's time to get behind the manager and, hopefully, the board will back him and he can go and buy the 12, 13 or 14 players he needs,” said Huckerby, never failing to deliver a memorable line.
The speculation is, of course, that Huckerby now has a clutch of Major League Soccer outfits waiting in the wings for his services – a queue headed by Toronto FC with San Jose Earthquake not too far behind.
For now there was no more news on where next – other than that he was still determined to stay true to his promise of never playing for anyone else in front of his beloved Carrow Road crowd.
“It's not as easy as me wanting to go somewhere,” he said. “It's a difficult process and, like I say, I don't know what's happening yet but I'm going to try and stick to my promise that I'll never play against Norwich – so it cuts out a lot of potential buyers. Or not buyers, I'm no a free…”
He still suggested he would return in some shape or form – a role as the Club Ambassador has already been mentioned. This evening and he wasn't ruling out a potential coaching role working with the next generation of Canary heroes as and when his great American adventure came to an end.
“I've worked under a lot of great managers and I've experienced every level of football in this country,” he said. “And I've played in every competition – so I'm sure I could pass on something to some kids or what have you.
“But it's a long way off. But I just want to be associated with the club because you could see by the reaction of the fans today that we've got a great relationship and, hopefully, that will continue for years to come.”
He wasn't about to step into the managerial breach; he's far too sensible for that.
“I don't see myself as being a manager, to be honest with you,” he said. “I've seen what it can do to people when they move up into management, so I'll stay out of that.”
Overall, however, and it was another big day for the Huckerby scrap-book; one, final trophy to slip into the suitcase as and when the call from Canada comes.
“It was a great day all round,” he said. “Not just for getting into the team, but seeing so many of the older players and what it meant to them – them coming back here, you can see the excitement it generates.
“So it's a great day for me and a great day for my family. My kids were here to see it and it's something that I will remember for the rest of my days. I've won the league twice, but this day is definitely up there…
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