June 18 2013 Latest news:
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
You suspect the nearest John Ruddy will get to the Olympics is when the torch procession passes through Norwich in early July.
Which is a crying shame. I might be risking a clip round the ear from Paul Lambert here, but Ruddy deserves a chance on the international stage.
Britain’s one-off attempt at footballing unity this summer – minus the Scots it would seem – appears a perfect stepping stone to full England honours. That ship has sailed for the European Championships, with Ruddy overlooked by caretaker boss Stuart Pearce for the recent Holland friendly at Wembley.
The last real chance at experimentation has now gone – irrespective of whether it is Pearce or AN Other who leads the Three Lions in Poland and the Ukraine. Given ‘Psycho’ is also in nominal charge for the Olympic jamboree, you can surmise with near certainty Ruddy will not be leaving Norwich’s pre-season training camp early. Or potentially missing out on the start of the new league campaign, should Pearce work his motivational magic on a disparate band of brothers from these isles. Which is just how Lambert wants it, you imagine. Hardly the best preparation for another gruelling Premier League season (we all hope) than to lose your undisputed number one for the opening skirmishes.
No arguments on that score when you view it through the prism of club loyalties. Yet if Pearce was prepared to adopt the same long term view he employed for the Dutch friendly with senior call-ups for the likes of Fraizer Campbell and Tom Cleverley, he could do his country a service and give the next generation of talent invaluable exposure.
Why not use the over-age rule to its proper advantage; ditch the commercially-driven desire to put David Beckham or Ryan Giggs in that specially manufactured blue strip. Blood a Ruddy or a Danny Graham or any of the other uncapped professionals now plying their trade with distinction in the Premier League.
The Olympic football tournament is guaranteed its own mass exposure niche within the greatest show on earth this summer. The novelty value alone of a Team GB squad is bound to grab the attention. Pearce’s men will play to packed houses at Wembley, Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium and OId Trafford in the group phase. Spain and Brazil are among possible opponents should they progress further.
Chelsea’s Juan Mata has indicated his willingness to feature for the World and European Champions. Many of the brightest gems from Athletic Bilbao who recently tore Manchester United apart in the Europa League are expected to be part of the Spanish squad. Brazil have included Ronaldinho and Neymar in their provisional party – a merging of the past and the future for the Samba stars.
Now drop Ruddy’s considerable frame into the midst of that maelstrom. How could the man from St Ives not benefit from playing any part in such a footballing circus? The 25-year-old’s displays in recent weeks merely underline Norwich have a Premier League-class keeper between the sticks. His last four games for the Canaries deserve a season’s highlights package in their own right. From memory, the one-handed tip around the post to deny Danny Welbeck against Manchester United. The superb reaction block to foil Peter Crouch at point blank range at the Britannia. The sharp save from Hugo Rodallega at close range in the home game with Wigan. And the fingertip around his far post to deny Demba Ba last Sunday when the Senegalese had diverted Yohan Cabaye’s initial effort.
One save per game of the highest quality. Add those to his brilliance at Anfield and on many other occasions. You don’t need John McCririck to install him as the odds on ante-post favourite for Norwich’s player-of-the-year award.
Ruddy now exudes supreme confidence. A commodity not even Lambert can instil in his players. Just watch how he goes about his craft. How he commands his penalty area and the respect of those in front of him. That comes from knowing you truly belong in prestige company. It develops from a consistency of performance and a growing maturity allied to the undoubted talent that prompted Lambert to bring him to the club in the first place.
Ruddy himself gave a television interview earlier this season stating he felt he did not deserve to be bracketed amongst the best English keepers around at present. Not any more, John. Not any more.