Fleming ready for battle

PUBLISHED: 13:27 06 January 2006 | UPDATED: 09:06 14 September 2010

Battered and bruised club captain Craig Fleming was today relishing rolling up his sleeves for another full-blooded encounter against Premiership surprise package West Ham United.

Battered and bruised club captain Craig Fleming was today relishing rolling up his sleeves for another full-blooded encounter against Premiership surprise package West Ham United.

City go head-to-head with the Hammers in the third round of the FA Cup at Carrow Road tomorrow (3pm) and in Fleming's case it's his head that's been taking a bit of a hammering of late.

The Canary centre-back had to have five stitches in a cut above his left eye following a clash with Leicester striker Mark de Vries last Saturday, but is determined soldier on - despite it offering tasty target for opponents.

“My eye is a bit sore still, but it's all right,” said Fleming. “It offered a bit of target practice for Dichio and I'm sure that it won't be missed by Marlon Harewood.”

At 34 and having played 353 games for the Canaries, Fleming's enthusiasm for the game has not waned and the appeal of playing in the Cup is still as strong as it was when he made his debut in the competition for Oldham against Barnsley in 1997.

“The FA Cup still has something special about it no matter what people say,” said Fleming. “It's just a good game to look forward to in general. It's a bit of a role reversal from the last time the two sides met in the Cup.”

Norwich lost 1-0 at West Ham last season at the same stage of the competition, when City were struggling to keep their head above water in the top-flight and West Ham were aiming for promotion.

Said Fleming: “The pressure is on them now. They are obviously coming here, having done very well this year, so it should be a good game and I am looking forward to it.

“They have always been a good footballing side and come at you. But when it came out of the hat I don't think that they will have been looking forward to it. We are a dangerous side, Carrow Road is a place a lot of teams fear, we have a lot of pace and strength up front.

“It's a chance for us to get through into the fourth round and hopefully a home tie, and it will certainly be good for some of the younger boys to mix it with players playing in the Premiership week in, week out.”

Fleming is also looking forward to locking horns with Hammers hit man Harewood, with whom he's had a few ding-dong battles in the past.

“He's a good player, strong and quick and he's got a bit of confidence about him now as well,” said Fleming, who has a surefire way of dealing with the striker. “He's a real handful. I'll let the Doc look after him,” he added with a wry smile. “No, you have got to stay strong yourself and compete.”

Fleming's return to the first team, having been dropped while Calum Davenport was on loan from Spurs for three months, has coincided with City's best run of form of the season - five wins from the last six games.

But the modest Fleming admits this is simply a happy coincidence.

“It's been all right and I seem to have timed it just right,” he said. “We've done well, apart from on Monday when they looked like they had played one less game than us.”

City were undone by a Preston side that clearly looked to have benefited from having played one fewer match than the Canaries over the festive period, and a controversial penalty awarded for handball by Fleming for the second goal certainly did not help.

“It was a bit harsh,” was Fleming's view. “It's one of those where if my hand had moved towards the ball then I'd have no complaints but the ball just hit my arm and there was nothing that I could do.

“But, to be fair, if it had happened at the other end I'd have been screaming for a penalty. But it's gone now.”

Clearly, Fleming is just pleased to be back playing, but said he was always in a state of readiness.

“I'm delighted. The main thing is to keep yourself fit as you still have to prepare as if you are going to play each game,” he said.

“Theoretically you could come on off the bench after the first minute if there's an injury. I just had to keep myself in good shape and hope that I got a chance.”

Meanwhile, manager Nigel Worthington will be keeping every finger crossed that first-choice full-backs Adam Drury and Jurgen Colin recover from their hamstring and groin injuries, respectively.

Otherwise, as Fleming and Doherty will stay in the centre of defence, Worthington's only real option at right-back would be to hand Rossi Jarvis his first senior start.

In midfield, Jason Jarrett, back from his loan spell with Plymouth, could well start alongside Dickson Etuhu. Whether that is in a midfield three or four is yet to be decided.

Should Worthington opt for three in midfield and Drury is injured, Jim Brennan could drop to full-back and Simon Charlton maintain his midfield role. Up front, if City stick with their recent 4-3-3 formation, either Peter Thorne or Ian Henderson could come in for the suspended Darren Huckerby, with Paul McVeigh switching to the left side.

On the bench could be 16-year-old Michael Spillane. The Republic of Ireland Under-17 skipper travelled with the senior City party to all the Christmas and New Year games.

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