Competiton for places key to Norwich City's success
Jonathan Redhead Darel Russell believes City's strength in depth is proving a key factor in their march up League One towards promotion. Russell has another excellent game in the Canaries 5-0 thumping of Colchester on Saturday in awful conditions as his side closed the gap on league leaders Leeds United to just three points.
Darel Russell believes City's strength in depth is proving a key factor in their march up League One towards promotion.
Russell has another excellent game in the Canaries 5-0 thumping of Colchester on Saturday in awful conditions as his side closed the gap on league leaders Leeds United to just three points.
And the midfielder, who played in City's last 5-0 league away win at Sheffield Wednesday, way back on December 29, 2001, said competition for places among the players is driving Paul Lambert's men on.
The latest man to stake a claim for a place in the starting eleven is Oli Johnson who claimed his first City goal after coming on as a sub, and Russell was impressed with the former Stockport County man.
"He looks really dangerous doesn't he? And I'm sure he's exciting the fans as well," Russell said.
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"It just goes to show that we've got a lot of players that are causing a lot of competition and you have to be on top of your game.
"Chris (Martin) has lifted his game, Holty's (Grant Holt) notched again, Wes (Hoolahan) is unlucky with his penalty and we've got a lot of competition for places whether it's in midfield or defence now too.
"We ended up playing a five-man defence at the end of the game and I think it's fantastic to have this competition and to have this strength in depth we're getting now if we do lose some players over the season."
Russell admitted City had to beat the sodden pitch as well as their opponents and said the win showed a different facet to the Canaries' game.
"Obviously the scoreline is extremely flattering but I think we've gone out and done the right job on a difficult pitch," he said.
"I think that's the first time where we've encountered a pitch that's not possible to play on.
"You couldn't play balls on the floor and I think actually it tested us to see whether we could cope with that side of the game, the real battling side of the game.
"There wasn't much football played but I think we coped with it brilliantly, against a side who's probably used to that and we've come out with a great result.
"I've been saying to Chris that he needs to be wearing studs for the past few weeks and he finally felt that the pitch was bad enough for him to use them and it made him look ten times faster than he normally is, so I'm glad for him," Russell joked.
"But they were two brilliant finishes and he was looking for the third but unluckily it never came for him, but the other boys contributed as well; Oli, Doc (Gary Doherty) and Holty, so it's brilliant."
Russell was the victim of a poor tackle from ex-City man Ian Henderson, making his debut for Colchester.
Referee Mike Dean had no option but to hand Henderson a straight red in the final minute after his reckless lunge at Russell.
But the City man was quick to forgive his former team-mate.
"I know Hendo, and he wouldn't have meant it," he said.
"I think it was his first game, his debut, and he's enthusiastic and I just got there before him and it was badly-timed.
"Luckily I managed to get away with it and hopefully it won't put a stop on what he's going to do for the club and I'm sure he'll be a great asset for them."
For the 1,900 plus City fans who managed to fit into the ground, the result will give a measure of revenge for 7-1 humiliation.
But that's not the case for Russell who said the opening day disaster had not entered his mind.
"I think that era of Norwich when Bryan Gunn left, you had to draw a line under that side of things," he said.
"When the new gaffer came in, basically the season started from then. I definitely didn't think about it, because I wasn't involved and it's not something that crosses my mind or something I worry about.
"I drew a line under it and the season started for me when I got back in the team, and I'm sure it started for everybody else when the new manager came in."