Canary full-back Adam Drury will have a whole new set of introductions to make at the end of this summer as Norwich's longest-serving player meets and greets Glenn Roeder's Class of 2008-2009 at the gates of Colney.
The 29-year-old – almost back to full fitness following the knee injury that ended his season way back in October – is virtually the last survivor of City's 2003-2004 Championship title-winning team.
He is certainly the only player left who made that luckless trip to Cardiff in 2002 for the Championship play-off final.
Darren Huckerby and Ryan Jarvis were two players that stood on the City Hall balcony and watched as then-skipper Drury lifted that famous Football League trophy in front of the celebrating Canary legions; Jason Shackell was a third – having made just six appearances that glorious season as Nigel Worthington's troops swept into the top flight eight points clear of the field.
Four, long years later and with Roeder's new broom sweeping both his best pal Huckerby and one-time England Under-16 prospect Jarvis out of the door, so Drury is very much the 'old man' of the dressing room. The only serving City player with a Cardiff play-off campaign medal pinned to his chest.
“Someone just brought over a team photo for me to sign and I was the only one left on it,” said Drury, speaking in the midst of the club's 'Greatest Ever' celebrations this weekend.
Craig Fleming bowed out once Peter Grant walked through the door; Gray Holt, Damien Francis, Iwan Roberts, Robert Green, Marc Edworthy… all have moved on. But 270 games and seven years later and Drury is still at Carrow Road – and left to look for a new best pal as Huckerby looks to head Stateside this summer.
“So, yes, it will be a case of getting to know a few of the new lads – this is a big summer for the club.”
With nine players already out of the door and both current skipper Mark Fotheringham and Gary Doherty yet to put pen to paper on their new deals, Roeder needs to start piling bodies through the door. For now, it has been the usual names and the usual suspects doing the rounds. At some point, the flood of fresh faces has to start.
“When you look at our playing squad at the minute and the players that have gone on loan or whether they have been released, there's going to be a big turnaround in players – and we need to if we're going to do any better than we did this year,” said Drury.
Change did, he said, come with the territory; that whenever a new manager comes into a football club, his broom comes too. Some settle for no more than a general tidy up; others opt for a deep clean – digging out every last speck of grime from the training ground corridors.
“It's a risk for everyone – players, staff, everyone,” said Drury, with Roeder's back-room set-up currently feeling the full force of his shake-up.
“When a new manager comes in he obviously has his own ideas, his own tactics and his own way of doing things and, obviously, he wants to do his own thing. So you do worry about it,” said Drury, whose knee injury was sustained under the caretaker regime of Jim Duffy. He was sat forlornly on a treatment table from the moment that Roeder walked through the door some two weeks later.
“I've not played one game or trained one day with the new gaffer yet so it will be like a new start for me when I come back – it'll be a bit like a new player coming in and he'll obviously make his own opinion when he sees me train and play. So I've just got to go out and do the best that I can.”
And, for once, pre-season doesn't hold too many moans and groans – not when you have had seven months out of the game stuck on the sidelines.
“It is a funny thing to say, but I am actually looking forward to pre-season – I never thought I'd say it, but I can't wait now to just get back in and be part of it because although everyone's kept me involved you don't feel part of it. No matter what you do,” said Drury.
“And obviously I haven't trained or played one day under the new gaffer and the coaching staff, so I'm just itching to get back in and be outside and joining in with the lads.”
Only minus Hucks. “Not just football-wise, he's a big loss for me personally because he's my best mate at the club,” said the long-serving City left-back, actually being put through his rehab paces by the departing City winger up at Colney.
“He's a good friend. Obviously, we'll still keep in contact and he'll not be short of an offer or two – so he'll end up playing somewhere, but I shouldn't imagine it'll end up being anywhere in our league.” The advantage of a gig with Toronto or wherever is obvious come holiday time.
“That's what i'm pushing him towards – so I can come and visit him!”
In the meantime, however, and it's back to the fitness grind for the early part of the summer. “Obviously there'll be a lot of time on my own or working with one or two of the physios – just doing rehab work; strengthening and that,” said Drury, likely to find a few more people to play with a week ahead of the rest.
“A few of them are coming back a week early because of me – which they're delighted about – so I can do full contact training and join in properly so basically I'll be ready to go on the first day of pre-season,” said Drury, scheduled to get his first, proper kick-about with Roeder's new crop of first-year professionals – Luke Daley, Damon Lathrope and Co.
Add that to the on-going base work and the hope is that Drury will be up there with the best of them fitness-wise as the Canaries do the rounds of Dereham and Gorleston this summer before that five-day trip to Sweden.
“Hopefully, with the stuff that I'm doing now, I should be one of the fittest there. Or that's what I'm hoping for,” said the long-time City star, granted at least one week off.
“They've given me a bit of time off, so in June I'll get a week or two off to go away because I haven't stopped now since I got injured. The other lads have had breaks and weekends off, whereas I've been in every day so I'll go on now, have that couple of weeks and train again when I get back.”
At a push, he could have grabbed the odd, 15 minutes of Championship action before the season finished. But after seven months on the sidelines, all agreed that discretion was the better part of valour – particularly when it came to the 'donor' area of hamstring tissue that was used to repair that damaged knee.
“If they had really, really wanted to push me I could have [done it], but at the end of the day it wasn't really worth the risk,” he said. “So the idea was to make sure that I was strong enough to get myself back for pre-season. So for the sake of one or two games, there was no point in risking getting myself injured again because it's taken me a long time to get back to where I am now.
“I do feel good now. It's a bit frustrating because, like I said, the rest of the lads have gone away now and I wanted to be doing ball-work and stuff with them.”
And all with a view to Dereham (a). “That's what I want to do – to be back for the first pre-season game; to be back and playing properly. And, at the minute, I'm on course for that.”
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