Yanks for the memories

PUBLISHED: 11:12 14 July 2008 | UPDATED: 15:38 10 September 2010

Matthew Chambers

Darren Huckerby today admitted he has taken a huge gamble joining Major League Soccer team San Jose Earthquakes. Teams from the MLS, in particular Toronto, had been courting the City legend for some time, but Huckerby has finally chosen to lace his boots up for the next 18 months in the Sunshine State of California.

Darren Huckerby is set to make his MLS debut this week. Photo: Bill Smith

Darren Huckerby today admitted he has taken a huge gamble joining Major League Soccer team San Jose Earthquakes.

Teams from the MLS, in particular Toronto, had been courting the City legend for some time, but Huckerby has finally chosen to lace his boots up for the next 18 months in the Sunshine State of California.

The 32-year-old was released by Norwich City at the end of last season and since then column inch upon column inch and countless website stories have speculated about where the winger would end up.

Speaking exclusively to the Evening News Huckerby revealed he'd had 12 offers from clubs, the majority of which are in the Championship and one in the Premier League, but he proved true to his word in ensuring that he will not face his beloved Norwich.

Huckerby freely admits his choice to play for the Western Conference strugglers is a massive risk, but he's used to taking a chance - just wind the clock back to 2003 when he first signed for Norwich from Premier League side Manchester City.

Huckerby faces a huge challenge in order to help San Jose stave off total embarrassment in their dismal maiden season in Major League Soccer. The winger will hopefully add some much-needed experience and attacking prowess to a team that has scored an MLS-low 10 goals in 15 games.

“It's completely alien to what I've been used to,” said Huckerby, who turned down the opportunity to team up again with former City players Jim Brennan and Carl Robinson at Toronto after concerns about the plastic pitch. “I've been lucky to play in every division over here and so hopefully I've seen everything this country has had to offer really. It's a big step. The biggest thing is obviously moving away more than anything else. It's not a massive season and I'll be back here whenever I can.

“When I decided that I didn't want to play against Norwich it left me with not too many options to be honest. I had to make a decision whether I was going to pack up or carry on playing. I still feel I have a lot of offer. I still feel pretty strong. It's going to be a new challenge.”

Even at the end of his deal with the Quakes, Huckerby will be only 33 and he's adamant that he's not going there to simply make up the numbers and collect one last pay cheque.

“If I'm going to do it I would rather do it now while I can still play a little bit,” said Huckerby, who found the back of the net 48 times during his Canary career.

The two-time Norwich City player of the year is confident that his style of play will suit the MLS and hopeful he can help turn around the ailing fortunes of the Quakes, who are managed by former Ipswich Town player Frank Yallop.

“It think it is to try and do what I do over here. I've got a special kind of way of playing so I think it will lend itself to that league. I think the game is based around assisting goals. Everything is stat-based: they love assisting goals, they count every shot, every corner, everything. I think my game will lend itself to that.”

Huckerby also revealed he will be leaving his wife Lyndsey and two sons Thomas, 8, and Ben, 6, behind in Norwich in a bid to limit the disruption to their lives.

He said: “Lyndsey and I spoke about this. We came to an agreement that if I was ever to leave Norwich I wouldn't play against them because we want to live here and I don't think it would be right to come back and play against Norwich after what they have done for me.

“I felt strongly about this and she knew where I was coming from so I said it was probably going to have to be a move further and further away.

“My wife and kids are going to stay here. They're just going to come over when it's holidays and whenever they can. My kids are happy at school here. The decision we've made is that a lot of the time they're going to be here and I'm going to be there.

“I'm not a person to commute to be honest. There's no way I was going to be driving for two or three hours every day, to train, and driving back, it wouldn't happen. This way I will probably see my family more than I would do if I was for example in Scotland or something. It's still a long way away but I'm pretty lucky that the season kind of falls differently to the season in England.

Huckerby's decision to leave his family behind clearly shows his commitment to the Quakes and he's adamant that he is not going there for one last pay cheque.

“I'm probably getting a quarter of what I would get at a team over here,” said Huckerby. “I know that for a fact because I've had plenty of offers to stay here. It's not a money decision, it never has been. If I wanted money I would stay here. I've had 12 offers from teams, one even in the Premier so it's not about money.

“There are teams in the top half of the Championship who would take me tomorrow and I know they would. I have had managers ring me up, a few agents, who have more than inquired about my future.

“When I said that I would not play against Norwich I was 100 per cent certain that's what would happen. Even some of my team-mates thought I was crazy. But they know me. They know when I say something I stick to it.”

It was a decision which Huckerby revealed could have led to his retirement.

“I was never going to go back on my word. No, no, even if it meant retiring which two or three weeks ago looked possible when things were unclear.

“I've had a good career. I've still got time left to play. But if it meant playing against Norwich then I would rather not play.”

The Quakes are in their first season back in the Conference, having dropped out for two years, and are still finding their feet.

“It's hard for the manager, Frank Yallop, obviously ex-Ipswich. He's actually won the title there a couple of times. He's no fool. He's knows how the league's run. He's got a little bit of experience of winning and I'm going there to win games. There's no doubt about it,” said Huckerby.

“It's very direct over there, it always has been. From speaking to him [Yallop] defenders tend to play one-on-one a lot. Let's hope they do. Because as I have found out in the last four or five years teams usually end up doubling up on me because if it's one-on-one then

I can get to work.”

“The team's got potential but it's not all about money like it is over here. I don't know how much money the chairman's got, he's apparently a billionaire. The whole squad's got to come under a salary cap so the whole squad's got to be paid less than £2.7 million and if you divide that between 20 players it's not as much as you think.

“I'd say it's definitely not a money decision. It's more the lifestyle and a different challenge. The money is like a quarter of what I would get here.”

Huckerby's decision to turn down Toronto was quite straightforward.

He said: “Obviously they had first rights on me but they play on astroturf and train on astroturf and it was a big doubt in my mind. But don't get me wrong they are a great club and have world class facilities.

“To be honest it's a really nice living culture in California, the average temperature is 25 degrees all year round and it's the safest place to live in America - it's like the Norwich of the States.”

Huckerby could play as soon as Tuesday in the Quakes' exhibition at the Buck Shaw stadium against the Honduras Olympic team.

But it's more likely his debut will come at Toronto on July 19, because he needs to clear up immigration issues.

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