Two spells, one Rusty: Darel Russell opens up on his Norwich City career

PUBLISHED: 06:00 13 April 2020

Darel Russell experienced it all during his two spells at Norwich City. Picture: Paul Hollands/Focus Images

Darel Russell experienced it all during his two spells at Norwich City. Picture: Paul Hollands/Focus Images

Focus Images 2007

Darel Russell was a constant through several eras of change for Norwich City - he worked under numerous managers and played in excess of 200 games for the club.

As an academy graduate, the midfielder displayed the value of the developing young talent. His tenaciousness saw him deployed in a range of positions, despite those achievements, he operated within some difficult eras for the club.

Russell was a loyal servant to City, despite admitting to never really feeling the love during his two spells at the club.

Now, he is beginning his own coaching journey in the United States, even though it didn’t appeal to him after he retired initially.

Playing under Bryan Hamilton (2000)

Russell is a graduate from the club's academy. Picture: Keith Whitmore/ArchantRussell is a graduate from the club's academy. Picture: Keith Whitmore/Archant

“I had an extremely tough time playing under Bryan Hamilton. I was probably a scapegoat for him, an easy target and it put me in a position where I was questioning myself and my ability. I think coming through that at such a young age with someone who was as tough as him on me, set me up brilliantly for any manager I came across after that.

“You feel the lows of that scenario and coming though the other side and being able to survive it, there was no other manager who could bawl and scream at me and tell me I wasn’t good enough because I’d already experienced it at a more vulnerable part of my life, when I was younger and after that I found it very easy.

Russell was a tenacious player who was deployed in several positions. Picture: ArchantRussell was a tenacious player who was deployed in several positions. Picture: Archant

“I’ve seen players older than me become effected by managers that have pushed and prodded in those similar ways whereas that experience for me was huge. It allowed me to feel comfortable in any scenario regardless of what it was.

“I don’t think it was tough love. Bryan was from a more old school managerial style and as a young player, you’re an easier target than trying to blame or attack older players that might have more of a bite back. It’s the age-old scenario you can have in football, it’s easier to take on a younger player than an older player.

“You can either take on a stronger character or a weaker character, whatever it might be. That was it for me. He found someone he could probably blame or pick on and it just caused me to inspire myself to prove him wrong.

Russell during his first spell as a City player.

 Picture: Simon Finlay
/ArchantRussell during his first spell as a City player. Picture: Simon Finlay /Archant

“It drove me to train harder, push harder and I’ve got to thank him, because as much as it was a tough time, it really pushed me forward in being capable of handling a lot of situations later in my career.”

Ipswich Town speculation (2001)

Russell describes himself as a stubborn character. Picture: Jonathan Moscrop/ArchantRussell describes himself as a stubborn character. Picture: Jonathan Moscrop/Archant

“There was never a point in time that I thought I would ever move to Ipswich. Bearing in mind I’d been playing at Norwich since I was 13, we already knew what that rivalry meant from that early age.

“In fact, the other day I’ve seen that Titus Bramble was at Colney training ground and it itched me. I said to him ‘what the hell are you doing there? You’re a traitor to Ipswich!’ and we had a bit of banter about it.

“It was never a thought process but that’s the way I am. Others would have made that move and its personal decisions – if push came to shove and it was the only club out there, then you never know unless you’re put in that position. There wasn’t a moment in my career where I was put in that position where I had to make that ultimate decision about moving there.

Russell experienced the highs and lows of the game during his time at City. Picture: Ade Kerry/ArchantRussell experienced the highs and lows of the game during his time at City. Picture: Ade Kerry/Archant

“They were always a rival of ours and I had much respect for plenty of players that played for Ipswich but with that rivalry of Norwich and Ipswich, it was never a thought that I’d move to them. It was a blasphemous thing to do.”

Nigel Worthington/Leaving for Stoke City (2000-03)

Darel Russell experienced a 'hard time' under Bryan Hamilton.  Photo Simon FinlayDarel Russell experienced a 'hard time' under Bryan Hamilton. Photo Simon Finlay

“He was tough. I probably had a little bit of carryover of Bryan to Nigel and that was ultimately a big reason why I ended up moving on.

“He was fine. He had a passion for the game and we had our run-ins, difficult periods and scenarios but for my own development and for me to keep moving forward in the game, it was probably time for me to move on with the kind of things they were foreseeing that I should probably be doing.

“They were similar (Bryan Hamilton’s and Nigel Worthington’s perceptions). I can’t really say it was fair. In terms of things that needed to improve in my game, I could never disagree with anyone because anyone who knows the game could see weaknesses that you have and things you need to do better. I couldn’t disagree with anyone.

Russell believes he was value for money for the Canaries. Picture: James Bass/ArchantRussell believes he was value for money for the Canaries. Picture: James Bass/Archant

“In today’s game and socially, things you can say and do, it probably wouldn’t be acceptable but that’s a different era and we move forward.

“The season before, things weren’t going in the direction that I required and how I wanted to play, I wasn’t getting the opportunities that I had done previously. The following season, before I left, the club needed someone to play at right-back at that point. They needed a hole filling and they thought I might be that person to fill a hole for the sake of it.

Russell re-signed for City in 2007. Picture: Angela Sharpe
/ArchantRussell re-signed for City in 2007. Picture: Angela Sharpe /Archant

“I didn’t believe that at that point it would be beneficial or right for me to just fill a hole for the sake of everyone rather than doing something that’s right. It was more like a square peg in a round hole and at that point in time, it was probably better that I moved on because I felt more like an outsider that was needed as and when. They felt it was best and times change.”

Re-signing for Norwich City (2007)

“The big reason was Peter Grant. I knew Peter and I learnt a lot from Peter in the few games I played alongside him. He was well ahead of his time in terms of being a true pro. In an old-school era, for him to take the game as seriously as he did, was very foreign back then.

Darel Russell during his first spell as a Norwich City player. Picture: Nick Potts/PA ArchiveDarel Russell during his first spell as a Norwich City player. Picture: Nick Potts/PA Archive

“Him being at the helm, I knew how professional he would be and how detailed he was so I thought it would be a good move and a good opportunity. I believed the club was trying to get back into the Premier League and to kick on from there.

“It had grown up. Everything was more professional, more slick. It was a big step from where it was when I left.”

Russell was linked with a move to Ipswich Town - but he says he couldn't have signed for the Tractor Boys. Picture: PARussell was linked with a move to Ipswich Town - but he says he couldn't have signed for the Tractor Boys. Picture: PA

Being placed on gardening leave (2009)

“That summer was an opportunity for me to move away and I think Burnley had come back in during that summer to go. Bryan had blocked the move, but I don’t know the ins or out of it but for whatever reason it was blocked, and I was stuck on gardening leave.

“I was on gardening leave for the first six weeks of the season. I wasn’t allowed to train or be at the training ground until the first-team had left. I think I was there with Sammy Clingan at one point before Sammy had moved and just came in and trained by myself in the afternoons and brushed up on my golf game in the morning. It was probably the best I’ve played golf!

“I did my own work. It was literally by myself and couldn’t be whilst anyone was in the building and then the change happened and I was still in that mode before Paul came to me and said ‘look, what’s the situation?’. He asked me if I wanted to come in and train with the group. I played a couple of reserve games because I had to get myself fit and the rest is history.

“They wanted to move me on and didn’t want me around the group. I felt let down, especially from people you’ve known for a long period of time, but I looked at it as one of those situations that the early part of my career allowed me to handle it. It wasn’t personal, it was business.”

Perception

“I have absolutely no idea how I am viewed because that thought process was never that much of an issue for me. It was always about what I did on the field. I probably cared more about the players around me and what they thought and whether or not I was doing my job.

“As I look back at it, did I achieve something at the club that will be remembered? My understanding is that I had the second most appearances for someone that had come through the youth team. I think Daryl Sutch is probably number one.

“So, am I an example of the youth development system and did I give full value to the club for coming through that system? I would say yes. Did I achieve winning a championship with the club? Yes. So, two things that I can look back on and being my achievements at the club.

“Would I liked to have achieved more? Possibly, yes. But are they good achievements? I would say so. Am I happy about them? Yes, I’m pleased. Winning League One was a huge changer in terms of my understanding of why we play the game. Until you actually do it, you don’t understand what it means or what it takes. That inspired me to say I wanted to do it again.

“Hopefully the fans appreciated my time at the club and the work I put in for them and within the club, kind of showing what the system can do and being of value for coming through.”

Become a supporter

This newspaper company has followed Norwich City through good times and bad. Every single contribution will help us continue to produce in depth coverage that makes a measurable difference to our community. OTBC

Norwich City Video

Norwich City Audio

Norwich City Stats

The Pink Un magazine

cover
A must-read for any Norwich City fan with in-depth, straight-talking, analysis from the best writers around.
Purchase

Latest from the Pink Un - Norwich City Football Club News