City midfielder Darel Russell is looking forward to a return to duty this weekend – four, long weeks since two yellows made a red and gave the combative Canary star an unscheduled month-long break.
A two-match ban and a two-week international break ensured that Russell's absence was longer than anyone might have wished for.
But he flies off to South Wales later today in the hope of stepping back into Bryan Gunn's starting plans for this weekend's contest away at Swansea, so Russell confirmed that he was itching to get back into the relegation fight.
“It's been a long time,” he said. “And it's just nice to be able to be available – and have a chance of getting back into the fold.”
In his absence – and that, of course, of ex-skipper Mark Fotheringham – Simon Lappin has been holding the fort. Whether Russell walks straight back into the side is just one of a number of key selection decisions facing City boss Bryan Gunn in the run-up to tomorrow's clash at the Liberty.
And not only is there Lappin. Young Korey Smith found himself occupying that right-sided midfield berth in the final minutes of the 1-0 home defeat by Wednesday last weekend. Tom Adeyemi was also on the bench at St Andrews.
“I was really pleased for Korey,” said Russell, with the 18-year-old following in Russell's own foot-steps – a City Youth team product making the grade at first team level.
“He's done fantastic all season and I think he deserved his chance – and he made a good showing of himself when he came on.
“And Lapps [Lappin] has sat there patiently for the best part of a year and a half and when he's come in he's done fantastically as well. So, obviously, there's competition there and the Gaffer's got decisions to make as well – I've just got to try and prove myself out here in training. And, hopefully, get myself back in.”
Having been handed a grandstand view of late, Russell is well awae that the race to the finishing line will be a made scramble; so much, of course, will also depend on the eventual outcome of the inquiry into Southampton's financial woes.
“There looks like there's going to be a fair few teams down there, so we've definitely got a chance of getting ourselves out of it,” said Russell, with the Saints inquiry now likely to stretch for “weeks” as the accountants and the lawyers get to work.
“Obviously it was a disappointing result at the weekend which would have put us in a really great position at this minute in time. But we can't look back at that now; we've got to look forward to the five games that we've got ahead of us.”
Hard on the heels of the Swans clash comes the home game against Watford; that is yet another six-pointer – in season littered with such crucial contests. Norwich cannot afford another slip-up a la Wednesday.
“It's a really important weekend coming up because it can mean opening up a little gap or being a little way behind.
“So it's going to be an interesting weekend – and a tough weekend. We've got little time to recover,” he added, well-versed enough in the ways of the Championship to expect the odd result or two in those second round of games.
“Its extremely difficult to play the two games so close together just in terms of bruising and fatigue,” he said. “Your body is extremely sore and it doesn't give it enough time to recover.
“And it's not usually the day after, but the day after that – two days after – that's when it usually really starts to kick in. So it's just making sure that we get the right recovery; right preparation; try and get as much healing in the body as possible for that Monday game.”
But expect the unexpected. Ideally, not at Carrow Road.
“With these types of situations with games I think that's where you find weird results – from the second fixture. Because teams are either too tired. Or they've not been able to recover. Or their preparation hasn't been great.
“And that's what I always find – that in the second games, funny results always turn up.”
As for what is the safety line this term, Russell would go for “over the 50 mark”. One number that regularly does the rounds is 52. If Norwich can just get three wins from their last five games then they should – should – be safe.
Again, the whole issue is further complicated by the unknown factor that is Southampton. That, if the Football League is not very careful, could swiftly degenerate into an unholy mess if supporters do not know exactly what has to be done to survive come that final Sunday of the season.
“Three wins – I think that should really set us in a good position,” said Russell, like everyone else this Easter keeping his fingers firmly crossed that all concerned can deliver.
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