Fleming could face the Saints
CHRIS LAKEY Craig Fleming is ready to overcome his worst injury problem of recent years to help Norwich City end the year on a high note.
Craig Fleming is ready to overcome his worst injury problem of recent years to help Norwich City end the year on a high note.
The Canaries club captain is back in training after six weeks on the sidelines with a hamstring problem - and waiting for the call should manager Peter Grant find himself short of defensive cover again this weekend.
With Jason Shackell suspended, Grant always knew that this week's return to training for both Fleming and Gary Doherty, back after an ankle problem, was vital; when considering his squad for the difficult trip to Southampton on Saturday.
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But with Dion Dublin - already standing in on defensive duties - nursing a groin injury, it means their recovery is imperative.
However, Fleming is determined not to let the side down.
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"If I have to play I'll play - the same with Doc," said Fleming. "We could probably both do with a little more time to get back up to match fitness, but Dion has a bit of a problem and Shacks is suspended so we might not have that luxury.
"But every time you pull on the shirt you do your best and we'll be no different."
It's been a long and uncomfortable absence for the Canaries club captain.
"I might be wrong, but I'm pretty sure it's the first time I have missed a game through injury for around four years - certainly not this length of time," he said.
Fleming injured his hamstring in the 1-1 draw with Colchester at the end of October - having come on as a half-time sub for Doherty, who was suffering from a back problem. He returned to action last week in the reserves' defeat at Colchester, but wasn't quite ready for the bench at the weekend as Grant tried to name a 16 for the game against Sheffield Wednesday.
"It was one of those where it was touch and go to be on the bench," Fleming said. "The physio and I had a chat with the manager and it was agreed I wasn't ready. If I'd been on the bench and someone had got hurt in the first minute and I'd had to play practically a full 90 minutes it would have been too big a risk, especially with the busy Christmas programme coming up."
Grant is keen to have his central defenders fit to enable him to play Dublin in his preferred role in attack - giving him options which he has rarely had in his two months in charge at Carrow Road.
"The manager hasn't had many options and that would give him one," said Fleming. "The team has just about picked itself in recent weeks because of the numbers he has had available, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.
"Paul Gallacher is back in training, Lee Croft is raring to go and looking very slim and very sharp. I hope I'm not tempting fate here, but the only real problem is Luke Chadwick - apart from him I don't think there's anyone with a long-term problem."
Fleming is hopefully that having a larger squad to select from will improve quality, breed confidence and produce results.
"The key is to get results because then you regain confidence and form," said Fleming. Once we start doing that we can get on a roll, get that winning habit back.
"We just have to get that run going and it will be much easier to do when everyone is fit and we have options in the team, when we can rest tired legs with lots of games coming up and send out a team that is fresh - players turning out with knocks just makes it difficult."