City midfielder Darel Russell has admitted that 2009/10 is turning into a ‘great season’ for the Canaries, as they aim to chase down Leeds United at the top of League One.
The former Norwich trainee, currently in his second spell at Carrow Road, was tipped for a move away from Norfolk at the start of the campaign, with Bryan Gunn leaving him on the sidelines.
His exit looked a certainty and with Premier League new-boys Burnley supposedly sniffing around, it looked like being a matter of when, not if.
But any move did not materialise and when Paul Lambert arrived at the helm, Russell was back in the frame, and ever since the Londoner got himself up to full match fitness, he’s been one of the stars of the show.
Anchoring the midfield three, Russell has been nothing short of outstanding and his name won’t be too far away when the end-of-season awards are dished out.
And the 29-year-old is just glad the Scot arrived when he did. He just wanted to a stage to showcase his skills.
“There was speculation that I was meant to be moving but things didn’t turn out that way and the new manager came in and, basically, gave me a chance to show what I can do.
“It’s been great so far and it’s been a great season; we’ve just got to keep going in the right direction,” said Russell, speaking on TalkSport.
The Canaries certainly seem to be heading in the right direction after Saturday’s 5-0 romp in the East Anglian grudge match.
And the midfield man revealed that it was nice to give the U’s a taste of their own medicine – even if he wasn’t directly involved in that opening day disaster.
“That 7-1 was pretty embarrassing,” he continued. “I wasn’t actually involved in it and was at the golfing range at the time.
“I was right out of the team and right out of the frame but walking into the range and seeing that it was 5-0 on SkySports was very embarrassing. Everyone was ringing me and saying: “What’s going on?”
“From that point of view it was a very low point. But to go out there on Saturday and repay them and get revenge for what happened was a great result.”
The derby thrashing, coupled with Leeds’ shock 2-0 defeat at Exeter, means that City now find themselves just three points from the summit.
Whoever their opponents are this weekend – Brentford or Walsall – Norwich know that a win will put them top of the tree, as United have an FA Cup tie at Tottenham to negotiate. And with the Whites faltering, Russell is determined to capitalise.
“We’ve got something in our sights now and we’ve got to keep chasing and chasing. We’ve been doing that now for the last couple of months.
“It seemed like a never-ending battle at one point but now we’re starting to see the fruits of our labour and we’re getting up that league now. There’s just one more team that we’ve got to try and chase.
“I can imagine it [Leeds’ FA Cup involvement] is distracting for them, especially with the Jermaine Beckford situation and their manager possibly leaving as well.
“We’re hoping that what’s going on may unsettle them a little bit and give us a slight edge to try and catch them.”
Russell put in another solid showing in Essex at the weekend and was, of course, right in the thick of it in the game’s dying moments, when ex-Canary Ian Henderson chopped him down to earn himself a red card.
But the City star revealed that there was no lasting damage. He’s fit and ready to go.
“I’m fine. To be fair, I know Ian very well, from the days we used to play in the youth team together so it was obviously disappointing that we both clashed in that way.
“But there was nothing malicious and it was unfortunate for him that it happened on his debut. Hopefully he’ll get himself back in the team after he finishes his suspension.”