Canary goalkeeping legend Kevin keelan is convinced that departing Canary hero Darren Huckerby will be a smash hit in Major League Soccer – should the 32-year-old's much-discussed move Stateside finally go through this summer.
For now it has all been talk. Of San Jose Earthquake having the second bite of the cherry, if reports of Huckerby linking up with ex-City team-mates Carl Robinson and Jim Brennan at Toronto FC fail to materialise.
The player himself warned that it was not simply a case of saying: 'Here I am, come and get me…'; that there might be a hundred and one hoops he needs to leap through before he arrives in Canada or beyond. Toronto head coach John Carver has also thrown their name into the hat for long-time Canary strike target Shola Ameobi, so nothing will be done until its done.
However, Keelan – a long-time resident of Florida after playing spells with both the New England Tea Men and the Tampa Bay Rowdies is certain that the growing number of MLS fans will lap up Huckerby's unique style. He is, said the 67-year-old, just their kind of guy.
“He is – he really is,” said Keelan, now officially the Canaries' 'Greatest Ever' goalkeeper following a recent poll among the Carrow Road fans.
A poll that, of course, put Keelan in the same 'Greatest Ever' team as Huckerby. The two would certainly keep the punters entertained – as, of course, does one of Huckerby's prospective MLS colleagues, David Beckham now of LA Galaxy fame.
“I don't know whether he could command the same salary that Beckham does, but I think he will do well there,” said Keelan, who made 673 appearances for the Norfolk club in the course of his 17-year City career.
“It'll be a good move for him – a good financial move for him. But I think he can still play here,” said Keelan, suggesting that an Indian summer in the MLS may still be a season or two away. Not everyone, of course, agrees. And with Huckerby himself insisting that he never wants to return to Carrow Road in an opposition shirt, so his options are fairly limited. Scotland or the States would be the general thinking.
“For me, it would be for when I went – when you were tailing off. You're staying in the game, but you're making yourself a little bit of money and keeping you're eye in. I think he's got a lot more to offer because this guy runs himself into the ground, so somebody ought to pick him up.”
Crystal Palace boss Neil Warnock is one long-time admirer, but time and again the stumbling block is the player's own insistence that he will not play at Carrow Road anyone else.
There is, likewise, a clear life-style attraction for the Huckerby family – commuting to South Norwood every day from his Norfolk home or lapping up the good life with the Robinsons in Canada for a couple of years….
Keelan did, however, offer one word of warning – that not all clubs are of Galaxy's ilk.
“It depends on which club he goes to,” said the Canary legend, as the MLS starts to put down roots in the American sporting consciousness.
“It's picked up a lot and is doing well,” he said, with Toronto one of the real success stories – playing in front of 20,000-plus home crowds.
“The problem is that it is fighting a lot of major sports – baseball, basketball, [American] football. It's a tough nut to crack. But I'm going to tell you something – football there has really taken off. So the proof of the pudding is in the eating – we'll see.”
Keelan was back in Norfolk to pick up his 'Greatest Ever' award – an accolade that saw the Calcutta-born keeper leave a clutch of great goalkeepers trailing in his wake. Bryan Gunn, Robert Green and Chris Woods to name but three.
“It's probably the achievement of my life,” said Keelan, awarded an MBE for his services to the professional game – as well as being twice voted the Canaries' Player of the Season', in 1973 and again in 1974.
“To be recognised by the club that you spent 17 years with – almost two decades – it is [a great achievement]. It's a great trophy and I'm looking forward to taking it home and putting it right where I can see it every day of the week.”
Carrow Road has, of course, changed dramatically since Keelan last graced the hallowed turf. It is, he said, worthy of the Premier League. Getting there, however, remains the $64 million dollar question.
“It is so beautiful – it's unbelievable,” he said. “I only wish that I'd had the privilege of playing with these surroundings. It's a fabulous set-up – and they've got some great supporters here.
“And, hopefully, we're going to get them back in the Premier League so I can get more of them on Fox Television back in Florida!”