Culverhouse: City ready to go the distance
Michael Bailey Assistant manager Ian Culverhouse admits it feels like the business end of the season has arrived - and Norwich City's players are fighting fit for the battles ahead. With the Christmas and New Year programme done and dusted, attention switches from getting ahead to closing on the promotion finish line.
Assistant manager Ian Culverhouse admits it feels like the business end of the season has arrived - and Norwich City's players are fighting fit for the battles ahead.
With the Christmas and New Year programme done and dusted, attention switches from getting ahead to closing on the promotion finish line.
Manager Paul Lambert had lamented the fitness of his squad when he arrived with Culverhouse in August - and a number of players have suffered injuries during training as they played catch-up at Colney.
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But City's management team believe those issues are in the past and with a 100 per cent record in 2010, the City number two admits it feels like the season has entered crunch time already.
“Yes, very much so - January is a big month for us,” said Culverhouse. “Every month from now on is a big month.
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“The players know that, but the good thing is now we haven't got many midweek games, so we can roll from Saturday to Saturday and it's all about recovery.
“It's not so much about the fitness levels because they're in place. It's more about making sure the players recover and get ready for the next game.
“We said it would be a struggle up to January. We've had to bleed them dry up to then and we've picked up a few injuries doing it, and now we've tapered off the fitness work because those levels are there. We're just trying to get that rolling from one game to another.”
Match preparations tend to come at the end of each week - meaning the wait until last night for confirmation City will face Brentford at Carrow Road on Saturday, rather than the rearranged trip to Walsall, should not have a detrimental effect.
City will now face the Midlands side on Tuesday night, with Culverhouse taking in the Bees' 1-0 FA Cup defeat to Doncaster at Griffin Park and City scouts watching the club's next two opponents in action at the weekend.
While the scouts were busy, Norwich set about righting a few wrongs at Colchester - Culverhouse's former club and a match laden with subplots and acrimony.
“The main thing is it didn't affect the players,” said Culverhouse. “The gaffer took it all on his shoulders to protect the players and they just went out there and executed the game plan really well.
“For the majority it was just another game but a few of the lads played in the first game of the season, so they wanted to put that right and all credit to them. They went out there, adapted very well to the conditions and were lethal in front of goal.
“They were pleased with themselves. A lot of them were relieved as well.”
Culverhouse felt disappointed by the reception he and Lambert received in Essex, despite laying some good foundations during their 10-month spell at the Us last season.
“In the cold light of day if you look back at what we actually did at the football club when we first went in there and to where we ended up, and then what we were trying to build in pre-season, I thought we did very well,” said Culverhouse.
“Obviously a lot of things were said when we left and a lot of emotions were running high during the build up to the game, but if you stand back and take the emotion away from it you'll find that.”
With leaders Leeds in FA Cup action at the weekend, City have the chance to go top of the League One table on Saturday.
And having spent most of the season playing catch-up to their promotion rivals, Culverhouse does not expect the pressure to change if - or when - City take over at the top.
He said: “No I don't think so. I think the expectancy levels are there anyway. We need to go up and it's easier to do it when your top of the league than 10th, and I'd rather be top.
“As long as we all carry along the lines of achieving what we set out to do I think we'll be all right.”
Culverhouse played 369 games during his 10-year career at Carrow Road and while admitting his playing past is driving him to earn coaching success with the club, it is a running theme at the club.
“Oh yes, I mean I had the whole of my career here really, so it's great to be back and everyone on the coaching side just wants this club to get back into the Championship,” he said.
“We're striving and the players are fully focused, and the fan base now is unbelievable compared to when I was here. We were playing in front of 14,000 and the club's now up to 25,000.
“They soon tell you when you're not doing so well but they're fully behind you when you are doing well, and we're fully focused on trying to get this football club back up as soon as possible.”