City midfielder Stephen Hughes admitted that he’s finding life hard watching on from the sidelines, as the Canaries prepare for tonight’s JPT area semi-final at Southampton.
The Scotland international has impressed on every occasion since returning south of the border in the summer on a Bosman free transfer.
But the form of Darel Russell and Korey Smith, coupled with a thigh injury, have kept Hughes on the fringe of the first team.
And even though he’s happy to bide his time, the former Leicester and Motherwell man is desperate to start appearing in the first XI on a more regular basis.
“I’m hoping to get a few more starts, it’s what every player looks forward to and I’m no different,” he said yesterday, speaking to the press at Colney.
“It’s hard. I don’t like sitting on the bench, I don’t want to be there but you just have to get on with it and hope your time will come.”
And his time will more than likely come in tonight’s trip to St Mary’s with Paul Lambert continuing to stick to his JPT policy. The Canary boss will chop and change, resting a few with knocks, and it would be a major surprise if Hughes was not given some game time on the south coast.
“Because the squad is fairly big some of the lads who haven’t featured recently have had games earlier in this competition. But we’ll have to wait and see; it’s up to the manager.”
With City only three games from a Wembley appearance – a two-legged area final comes next – a trip to famous stadium has obviously crossed a lot of minds. But the Canary midfielder wasn’t about to starting dreaming just yet.
“There’s still a long way to go to be fair. We have to beat a good Southampton team and we can’t look any further than that really.
“We’ll go there to try and get a result but it’s about taking each game as it comes. It’s the only way to look at it.
“We’ll go down there to win like we always do but they are a good team. They’ve had a few good results and they are on a bit of a run themselves but we will be looking to progress in the cup.
“There is confidence because of the way we’ve been playing and we look to win every game. But like on Saturday, it’s important that we at least get something.
“But Southampton will be a tough test. I just hope we can come back having progressed into the next round.”
The two have, of course, crossed paths recently when they played out a 2-2 thriller at St Mary’s – with Hughes grabbing City’s second equaliser with just 15 minutes left. And the Scot is expecting a similar test this time around, when the visitors will be looking to nullify the threat of £1 million striker Rickie Lambert again.
“I expect nothing different this time around and for us to get anything we need to be on top of our game. We played them a few weeks ago and the defence managed to keep him quiet.
“He’s a handful and he has scored quite a few goals but we dealt with him before. I’m confident with the players we’ve got we can look after him.”
One hot topic in recent weeks has been opposition tactics when facing up to City’s diamond formation. At Carlisle in particular, the hosts packed the midfield and the Norfolk club were decidedly blunt as a result.
But while admitting that boss Lambert may change things around somewhere along the line, the onus is, according to Hughes, on Norwich. It’s all about what they do.
“Yes, teams do [try and combat the diamond formation]. But it’s up to us to break them down,” continued the well spoken Scot.
“Maybe the manager will change it but a lot of teams will try and do that. I’m sure some teams have done it already and we’ve managed to beat them.”