Hunter: We have to focus

PUBLISHED: 13:02 20 April 2007 | UPDATED: 10:15 14 September 2010

DAVID CUFFLEY

City cannot afford to dwell on absent friends as they prepare for their East Anglian derby date with Ipswich Town. That's the warning from first-team coach Martin Hunter as the Canaries take a head count before Sunday's Coca-Cola Championship match against their biggest rivals at Carrow Road (noon).

City cannot afford to dwell on absent friends as they prepare for their East Anglian derby date with Ipswich Town.

That's the warning from first-team coach Martin Hunter as the Canaries take a head count before Sunday's Coca-Cola Championship match against their biggest rivals at Carrow Road (noon).

Darren Huckerby, Dion Dublin and Lee Croft were all added to the casualty list either before, during or after Tuesday night's 3-0 defeat at Burnley, joining a string of first team players definitely sidelined or doubtful starters for the derby clash.

Gary Doherty (hernia), Simon Lappin (hand), Mark Fotheringham (back), Luke Chadwick (thigh) and Youssef Safri (hamstring) all missed the Burnley trip, while striker Chris Brown has not played since February.

Nevertheless, Hunter said it was important not to be sidetracked by thinking about those who were missing.

He said: “You just have to get on with things. In a season in professional football, all sorts of things come up.

“We have to put a brave face on and get on with the job as professionally as we can with the players we have. There is nothing you can do about it.

“If you start worrying about the consequences of having this player out and that player out, you are not focused.”

The pre-match planning of manager Peter Grant, assistant Jim Duffy and coach Hunter was undermined in each of the last two matches by unexpected last-minute casualties, with skipper Adam Drury playing just one minute of the 2-1 victory at Leicester before leaving the field because of dizzy spells, and Huckerby hurting his back in the pre-match warm-up at Turf Moor.

For Hunter, former England Under-19 coach, it was a familiar experience.

He said: “In the time I was at the FA we lost three players on different occasions during the warm-up. You have to be thinking ahead and have a contingency plan for whatever else the game throws up.”

City ended up with five teenagers and 20-year-old Robert Eagle in their 16 at Burnley, and Hunter, with long experience of coaching that age group, said he was impressed with the way they had risen to the challenge.

He said: “They are typical of a lot of young players. They have no fear. They are the new kids on the block, absolutely desperate to do well.

“A good example is Chris Martin. He did well in the youth team, was not really challenged in the reserves, so he deserved his chance in the first team. He had an opportunity and grabbed it with both hands. What he needs to do is to continue the good work and keep his feet on the floor, which he is doing.”

As for derby duty against Ipswich, Hunter has faith in the youngsters if they are called upon.

He said: “They will be up for it. I am sure they will be relishing the occasion.”

Hunter, who worked with young players such as Joe Cole, Michael Carrick, Theo Walcott and City's own Ryan Jarvis at international level, said he had no regrets about returning to club football last summer - after spells as assistant manager and coach at Bradford City and coach at Stoke City back in the 90s - despite the Canaries' current position of 15th in the Championship.

He said: “Football has changed dramatically since I was at Stoke in terms of coaching methods and things like nutrition and sports science.

“But I have enjoyed every single minute of it, whatever has been thrown up - good or poor results. It's all part of coaching.”

Hunter has had to adjust to a change of management team after starting the season alongside Nigel Worthington and Doug Livermore, but he said: “I've not had a problem at all. From day one, Peter has explained exactly what he wants.

“Peter's very, very open-minded. He's someone who will seek advice and doesn't want yes men. He takes advice from Jim and myself, but he carries the can and makes the final decision.”

Results, he admitted, should have been better.

He said: “We're very disappointed. Inconsistency is a word we've heard all year and we want to put things right in the last three games. We want as many points as possible and then next season to get off to a good start.

“The Ipswich game is a big occasion, very much so. Derby matches are always a great challenge and we want to do well in front of our home crowd.

“It's still fresh in our minds what happened at Portman Road and we want to put that right.”

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