City winger Anthony Pilkington will return to his Lancashire roots this weekend with just one thought on his mind – to simply do his job for his new, Premier League employers.
The 23-year-old Canary star has been one of the big hits of Norwich’s first season back in the top flight of English football.
In his own, debut campaign Pilkington has already grabbed eight Premier League goals; the last of which arrived in City’s stunning 2-1 away win at White Hart Lane on Easter Monday.
Young, hungry and lean, he is a classic of the Paul Lambert transfer ‘breed’ – and offers an equally, classic Premiership frame in terms of his height and natural athleticism.
In short, he looks a snip for the £2 million Lambert paid League One Huddersfield Town for his services last summer and like Brighton’s Elliott Bennett on the opposite flank, looks to have enough ability to do without a Championship education.
But this weekend, Pilkington returns home. With the family home just three miles from Ewood Park, he grew up watching former Canary hero Chris Sutton take the Premier League title back to Blackburn and reward the late ‘Uncle Jack’ Walker for his millions.
Recent times have not been good on Rovers; Saturday’s clash with the Canaries is pretty much drinking up time in the Last Chance Saloon as the under-siege Steve Keen tries to keep the Championship at bay.
It would only twist the knife that much harder if one of their very own were to ‘do his job’ at Ewood this weekend and add goal No9 to his season’s impressive tally and help bang one, final nail in Rovers’ Premier League coffin.
“It’s going to be a good game for me personally – with all my family being from up there,” said Pilkington, fielding the inevitable Press questions after modelling the latest Canary home strip at Carrow Road yesterday.
“It’s going to be a good day out for them and I’ve asked the boys for a load of tickets today,” he laughed, as friends and family look to cheer both son and Rovers on.
“I need as many tickets as possible – there’s not even a number on how many tickets I can get,” he said. “My Dad just said get us as many as possible; he didn’t even give me a number. I think 99 per cent of my family and friends are all Rovers fans, but I’m just going there to do a job.”
Keen admitted last weekend that, given Rovers’ run-in and already precarious position, this weekend’s clash is a ‘must win’ fixture. Norwich don’t exactly head north without a care in the world, but the pressure is certainly off Lambert’s men following that Spurs thriller in which Pilkington played such a magnificent part.
“It’s going to be a good day from my family and that, but I’ll just be going there to do my job as normal,” said Pilkington.
“And to be fair to my family, they come to watch me wherever the game is – it’s no different because its Blackburn.”
With Rovers having now lost five in a row and Norwich looking pretty on 43 points in 11th, fortunes have been rather different for two clubs close to Pilkington’s heart.
“We’ve had a great season, but we don’t want the season to fizzle out,” he said, not when there is £750,000 a place you don’t…
Had he even started to think how he might react if he popped up with an 89th minute winner?
“It’s just another game for me,” he stressed. “And I’d do exactly the same as what I’d do if I scored against Manchester United in the 89th minute – or against any other team. I’d be running off celebrating the goal that I’d scored for Norwich City.”
Rovers did, of course, let the lad go. He had to make his way in the world via non-league and a local colliery side before Stockport County took him back into the professional game. The rest, as they say, is history as Pilkington guns for double figures in his first full season in the Premier League.
“Eight goals in your first season in the Premier League isn’t bad – isn’t bad at all, to be honest,” he admitted. “But I don’t give myself a target with goals, but I’ve chipped in with a few this season, so it’s been alright.”
Chips in with another on Saturday and one Blackburn-born boy could be breaking hearts across Lancashire. But then that’s football…