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Paddy Davitt, EDP Sports Writer
Wednesday, May 23, 2012
For a man far more comfortable in the shadows, Adam Drury deserved his starring role in the spotlight.
From the guard of honour formed by team-mates past and present alongside the Scottish champions to his raucous address to the crowd on the final whistle, Drury was the only show in town. The archetypal team player, the solid citizen, the pro’s pro was lauded by his peers and the thousands in attendance, swelled by the 2,500 Celts who made the long trek south.
Drury’s decade of loyal service to the Norwich cause may never be seen again – such is the evolving nature of modern football. The futures of both Grant Holt and Paul Lambert may have dominated the headlines since clinching Premier League safety, but on this balmy night, back in familiar surroundings so soon after that emphatic finale against Aston Villa, the focus returned to football.
Drury had chances to leave Carrow Road at various stages during a tumultuous period in the club’s recent history. City’s Hall of Famer chose to stay; through good times and bad. The love and affection from the terraces last night was testament to an enduring legacy that will last long after his playing days are gone. Supporters retain a special place in their hearts for their own. Drury may hail from across the border in Cambridgeshire, but he is an adopted son of Norfolk now.
The defender’s Norwich career has spanned every possible range of emotions since his arrival from Peterborough in 2001; weighed down with Barry Fry’s label as the ‘best left-back outside the top flight.’ The ecstatic highs of promotions mixed with the epic, gut-wrenching lows of dropping all the way down to League One. The ultra-consistent periods of longevity in settled City backlines counter-balanced with the lengthy injuries that forced him onto the sidelines.
Even the ebullient Fry undersold the man for his loyalty and commitment to the cause during the intervening period. The 33-year-old has been the one constant through it all for the Norwich supporters; the reliable anchor in an ever-changing dressing room of different characters.
Drury has earned the respect of his peers for time served and dues paid. That much was clear by the former team mates who turned out in his honour, both on the pitch and in the stands. Young men like Dani Pacheco and Henri Lansbury spent only the briefest of periods alongside Drury, but they wanted to be at Carrow Road with men like John Hartson and Dion Dublin who spanned a different generation.
Lansbury and Pacheco may still be in the Spring of their careers, but they reaped the benefits from precious time spent around a true professional. For one night only, Darren Huckerby’s fleeting presence on the same team sheet evoked memories of an intuitive understanding with his great pal that carried Norwich to the Promised Land the last time they mixed it with the big boys. A lifelong friendship forged on the training fields of Colney and the Carrow Road.
Huckerby rivalled Drury in the pre-match popularity stakes when the line ups were first announced.
Lambert was another name feted as both sets of fans duelled to acclaim him as one of their own within the opening minutes. Yet even City’s much-heralded manager would have paid due deference to the player he restored to his Premier League line up for the closing weeks of a memorable campaign.
Drury burst inside Dylan McGeough inside the opening minutes, but the fairytale goal eluded him. Jed Steer parried Tony Watt’s stinging drive from long range before the unmarked James Vaughan slotted City in front 12 yards out from Wes Hoolahan’s cut back. Holt comically shot Drury a withering look when a miscued cross drifted into the Lower Barclay. City’s number three could be forgiven the aberration.
Kyle Naughton and Drury emerged for the second period with a new cast list in tow. Michael Nelson partnered Ryan Bennett in a central defensive mix of the ages. Lansbury and Pacheco also took their bow with Aaron Wilbraham earning a ringing endorsement from the home fans.
Naughton exited the scene for George Francomb in what in all probability had more than an air of a farewell for the superb Tottenham loanee. Watt tested City’s youthful keeping battery again but Declan Rudd tipped over before all four sides of Carrow Road rose to salute Drury just past the hour mark. Lansbury shovelled home a second on 69 minutes after Fraser Forster was punished for a miscued clearance.
Huckerby entered the field to thunderous applause from the home fans, who were only denied a fitting finale when Forster bravely smothered at the flyer’s feet after exchanging passes with Andrew Surman. Ever the showman, Huckerby tried again but was foiled by the Bhoys’ defence in the closing seconds following another flowing move from the hosts.
Lambert took to the microphone yet again on the final whistle to introduce the man of the moment.
Throughout the build up to his special night, Drury’s only wish was that all those in attendance indulged in a night of celebration. One fully merited for a club mercifully moving in the right direction and the player who played a major part in that journey.
After Vaughan had opened the scoring, the home fans bellowed, ‘We are Premier League.’ Norwich City have been good for Adam Drury. But Adam Drury has been even better for Norwich City.