Dickson always goes extra yard
DAVID CUFFLEY Dickson Etuhu has made more appearances than any Norwich City player this season - and has probably covered more miles in the process.
Dickson Etuhu has made more appearances than any Norwich City player this season - and has probably covered more miles in the process.
The 24-year-old midfielder is set for his 50th outing of the campaign when the Canaries wrap up their 2006-07 programme with tomorrow's Coca-Cola Championship fixture against Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough (3pm).
Etuhu has missed only three matches, one of those through suspension, since the August kick-off, but it was not just his fitness record that earned the praise of manager Peter Grant as City prepared for their final fling before the summer break.
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The former Preston man has also proved to be one of the division's most tireless performers, with scientific analysis showing that he covers an average of 11.5 to 12 kilometres every match, among the top distances for midfielders in the Championship.
Etuhu clocked up 11.8 km - about 7½ miles - in last Saturday's home defeat by Southampton.Statistics show that he puts in a big percentage of “high intensity” work, and Grant paid tribute to his strength and stamina. “Dickson works ever so hard. I'm surprised he can train as well as he does with the energy he uses in games and that's been proved in the ProZone stats that we do as well,” said Grant.
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“He's right up the top with anybody in the league, never mind in this team, with his energy and the kilometres he runs in games.
“The big man has been terrific. He's played in games where he shouldn't have played. I think he's missed two games maximum since I arrived.
“He has a terrible wrist problem as well. He wears a padding on his wrist and it's something we may need to get operated on in the summer.
“When he falls, he's in terrible pain. He's shown great character in everything he's done. I think he's got his just rewards for us.
“He's desperate to play all the time and I think he deserves great credit for that because he should not be training at times, but he just wants to be on the training field.”
Etuhu, who has scored seven goals this season, knows he has had his critics, but said the distances recorded backed his own view of his workrate.
He said: “It wouldn't surprise me. It's funny that no one actually sees that on match day, but that's football. Nobody actually sees the hard work that some players put in. It doesn't bother me. I know I'm a fit lad and I'm looking forward to learning more and keep pushing.
“I just want to get better and better. I've not reached where I can reach. I try to get better after every training session, after every game. It's not easy. It's been very hard with the stick I've taken, but I think I've come through it well, I've dealt with it and I'm looking forward to becoming a better player.
“It used to bother me but it doesn't bother me any more. The manager has come in and he's helped me through my bad time. I thought I started the season off well, I've won three player of the month awards and I've still taken a lot of stick but the gaffer's helped me through it. He keeps me on my toes, he pushes me when I need that little arm round my back, and when I need that kick up my backside he does that for me too.
“So I've got a great relationship with him and it's been a pleasure to work with him.”
Grant said Etuhu was always eager to study the data on his performances.
He said: “It's like homework to him. He comes in and gets his disk after every game to see how he can improve on everything from his fitness stats, to his passing, to the amount of ball he's given to the amount of ball he's kept.
“For him it's like school. You go to school, teacher gives you homework and you go away and practise and you think about it. I want thinking players here. People don't see that. They only see for 90 minutes. He trains ever so well, he asks questions in training.
“He goes and reflects on his own performance after the game. If you do that as a footballer, you've got a massive chance. It's not by luck that he's getting these performances. It's with the effort he's putting in. If you practise properly, you'll reap the rewards.
“I think the biggest thing is people are starting to understand what he's about. That's helping him. He wants to be told.
“It's not just us telling him. He's going and finding out for himself as well.”
Etuhu knows he will be given a summer fitness schedule.
“I'm sure they'll get that sorted for us. I'm not looking forward to seeing it, but I'll have to do that definitely,” he said.
But first he wants to sign off with victory at Hillsborough.
He said: “It's been a long season and a couple of the boys were saying earlier on that I've played more games than anyone else.
“We're looking forward to the break but we've still got one more to go and I'm looking forward to playing well in that game.
“I'm looking forward to it personally, I just can't wait. It's a big stadium, a nice atmosphere. Our away fans are great, always making a noise and supporting the lads and we're looking forward to performing for them again.
“It will be nice to be away from football for a while, get your mind fresh again and go home and see my family. I'll spend some time with my mum in Manchester and my little brother, Kelvin, who plays for Manchester City, and then I've got to go back to London to see my family.”