Audio: Zak Whitbread has praise and sympathy for Dani Ayala

Zak Whitbread has sung the praises of his recent defensive partner – after sharing sympathy for Dani Ayala’s start to his Norwich City career.

Ex-Liverpool centre-back Whitbread suffered an injury-jinxed beginning to his time at Carrow Road after joining from Millwall at the start of 2010 – making just five appearances that year, before going on to play a major part in the Canaries’ success since.

Ayala’s introduction has been similar after making his own move from Liverpool in the summer, with a knee injury preventing the Spaniard from making a real impact until New Year’s Eve.

However, the ex-Reds pair has started to impress in their burgeoning central-defensive partnership and Whitbread – whose original City contract is set to expire in the summer – has full respect for his 21-year-old back-four partner.

“I think Dani has done superb,” he said. “He has had a few months out with injury and he has come in and looks like he has played 200 league games. He has been assured, looked great on the ball, defended well.

“Whoever plays that position is going to go in and give their best, but all credit to him. He has worked hard after a nasty injury, which wasn’t the greatest of starts for him – but I know how he feels in that department and he has come back, showed character and been spot on.”

Whitbread missed a fair chunk of City’s early Premier League campaign himself, after a hamstring injury left him on the sidelines after Norwich’s 3-1 defeat at Chelsea in August.

Most Read

However, the USA hopeful has started all seven of City’s games since – despite a tough programme of fixtures – and the City number six would not have it any other way, tired legs or not.

The sharpness certainly helped City make FA Cup progress, as they brushed aside Burnley at the weekend to set up a fourth round tie at West Bromwich Albion – who City also travel to on Saturday in the Premier League.

“I think with the win at Queens Park Rangers last week, you might have argued there would be a few heavy legs during the week, but once the games are churning out thick and fast it’s good to get into that momentum as a player,” argued Whitbread.

“If you’re playing in those games, you may think your legs are tired but come game day your get through it, your body does it and it’s great to have that momentum. You don’t really want to stop, you don’t want a long break in between. You want to keep the ball rolling.

“The gaffer made the decision to go with a lot of players that have played recently (against Burnley) and I thought the lads looked sharp out there.”