Tomorrow night and one of the great, Carrow Road footballing friendships will be on display as Darren Huckerby joins Adam Drury’s Testimonial Match celebrations.
Huckerby is one of a number of former City favourites ear-marked for a walk-on part as the Canaries play host to Glasgow giants Celtic by way of recognising 11 years of service from their 33-year-old full-back.
Michael Nelson, Dani Pacheco and Henri Lansbury are all lined up to return to Norfolk; as is this year’s loan star Kyle Naughton who has sought permission from his full-time employers Spurs to join in the party atmosphere at Carrow Road.
But it is Huckerby’s return that will command much of the attention – particularly given the manner in which his own Canary career ended without that final, ‘Farewell!’ moment, it will merely add to the real sense of occasion when the two, long-time team-mates are reunited on the pitch.
For many a season Drury was left to hold the fort on his own as Huckerby – nominally charged with doubling up in front of him on the left – wandered ‘off message’ to run amok in the opposition half.
“It wasn’t great, to be honest,” laughed Drury, as he reflected on what it was like to defend behind someone of Huckerby’s one-off attacking talents.
“To be fair he got better as he got older – he learned how to help out and double up on people,” added the star of tomorrow night’s show.
“But he was brilliant to play with; just to be behind him and watch him was fantastic. It probably wasn’t great for me and my career at that time. But when you have someone like him in your team, you have to accommodate him as best you can.
“And we’re still great friends to this day – so it can’t have worked out too badly!”
The respect is certainly mutual; Drury found his way into Huckerby’s All-Time Star XI in his recent autobiography with the Canary winger acknowledging Drury as the best one-on-one defender he had ever played with.
Marc Tierney’s arrival clearly had an impact on Drury’s ability to command a regular first-team berth; or did up until Christmas when a long-term groin injury opened the door for the 33-year-old’s return.
As he swiftly proved in the home clash with Spurs and the manner in which he combated Kyle Walker, there was still plenty of Premier League life left in those 33-year-old legs.
“After Christmas to be involved as much as I was and in the games that I was has been fantastic,” said Drury. “And while I never doubted myself, I bet a few people thought: ‘I wonder how he’s going to get on? Is he going to get exposed?’
“But I thought I played pretty well that day against one of the quickest players in the Premier League. But, as I say, I never had any doubt in my head. One versus one I’ve always been pretty good.”
Whether this is the end of the story is another matter; a conversation about a new deal for next year remains to be had. Norfolk is very much in his blood now.
“At some point from the point of view of career-wise, I might have to move away. But it is a hard one. From the point of view of family, as a place to live I don’t think you can get much better.
“We’ve been spoilt living here and Norfolk will always be a big part of my life,” he said, feeling curiously fit for his supposed ‘old age’.
“I do feel fit, to be fair,” he said. “It’s weird – maybe those two years out when I had the injury gave me a little bit of a break. And, obviously, full-back is not an easy position to play on the pitch – there’s a lot of leg work involved. But maybe as you get older, you adapt your game that little bit more.
As for the big game tomorrow, Drury’s hopes for his evening are very simple – a night of celebration for all concerned.
“That’s what I have said from day one; with them being champions and us staying up as we have, I just want it to be a party-like atmosphere. I just want every to enjoy the night – that’s the main thing.
“And it obviously gives me the chance to say ‘Thanks!’ to everyone for the support that I’ve had since the time that I’ve been here.”