Fleming's itching for return to fray

DAVID CUFFLEY Club captain Craig Fleming is keeping his fingers crossed for a return to first-team action with Norwich City tonight - and a reunion with one of his earliest football colleagues.


Club captain Craig Fleming is keeping his fingers crossed for a return to first-team action with Norwich City tonight - and a reunion with one of his earliest football colleagues.

Carling Cup second round opponents Rotherham United are managed by 41-year-old Alan Knill, who was an established member of the Halifax Town side nearly two decades ago when Fleming started his career at The Shay.

The 34-year-old City defender is eager for another taste of senior action at Millmoor (7.45pm) after starting just one match this season, the 2-0 victory in the first round of the competition at Torquay.

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He said: “I know quite a lot about Rotherham. An old colleague of mine, Alan Knill, is manager. I used to play with him a long time ago at Halifax.

“I don't know what he's like as a manager but as a player he was decent, a very good player, a centre-half. It was when I was an apprentice at Halifax, he was someone I looked up to.”

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The Millers are bottom of Coca-Cola League One with just one point, a false position in footballing terms after they were penalised 10 points for going into administration. Fleming, at least, knows what to expect.

He said: “We'll find they will be a bit more direct than teams in our league. They'll be the underdogs in the game, which is always the easier role to play, and they'll be up for it.

“They've obviously got points deducted at the start of the season, but they've got some decent players from our league who have perhaps not found clubs and ended up there. It will be a tough game. It always is at Rotherham. It's a hard place to go, they'll be physical and big.”

Fleming, kept on the sidelines by central defensive partnership of Gary Doherty and Jason Shackell, has had to sit on the bench as an unused substitute while City's bright start to the campaign has been blighted by just one point from their last three matches. Now he's itching for a game.

He said: “Ten days ago we were second in the league and flying, but that's football. Early on in the season that's going to happen, a couple of iffy results and you drop back down again. It's up to us to put that right and get up the table.

“It will be very useful for me if I play. For the lads who haven't played very much this season, it's a good opportunity to try to get a bit of match fitness and get a game under our belts.

“If it's anything like the last game at Torquay, a few of the lads will get a chance to play. Although we want everybody fit, it's good that lads who haven't played a game get a chance.

“All I can do, really, is just what I've always done - try hard, train hard, keep myself as fit as possible and just hope that I get a chance.”

With the Canaries overdue for a decent run in one of the knockout competitions, the Carling Cup still offers them one route to a bit of glamour.

Said Fleming: “It's important, definitely. It's probably taken a back seat when you look at the bigger clubs. They play their reserves early on.

“But it's one of those where a few teams in our division have squeaked through and ended up playing in semi-finals and finals, which financially is good, and it's good as a footballer to be playing in big games at the end of the competition.

“I think it's a big chance. If you can get through the early rounds, it's amazing how quickly the quarter-finals can spring upon you.”

Manager Nigel Worthington has a long list of absentees tonight, with injured quartet Darren Huckerby (groin), Adam Drury (ankle), Lee Croft (thigh) and Joe Lewis (cheekbone) joined on the sidelines by on-loan pair Lee Camp and Patrick Boyle.

Goalkeeper Camp is cup-tied after playing for Derby in the previous round, while Everton will not allow left-back Boyle, who made his debut for City on Saturday, to play.

Rossi Jarvis, 18, definitely starts at left-back, his first senior appearance of the season, while 17-year-old Academy goalkeeper Steven Arnold will be on the bench.

Worthington also plans to rest a couple of Saturday's line-up, so Fleming, Andy Hughes, Ryan Jarvis, Ian Henderson and Michael Spillane could all be involved. Striker Peter Thorne will play at least part of the match, he said.

“Some players will be rested but the group that we take will be capable of competing and performing well,” said Worthington.

“We might have a little change on our formation - we changed it against Torquay.

“One thing I do know, it'll be a lovely pitch to play on and I'll be looking for a good performance.

“Everybody can have an indifferent week, but you get over it and get on with it.

“It's keeping the players believing and giving them our support. If we have the same mental attitude as we did at Torquay, then we'll be all right.”

Rotherham midfielder Michael Keane is pushing hard for a recall after coming on as a substitute in Saturday's 0-0 draw against Doncaster. Striker Delroy Facey, struggling with an ankle injury, missed the Doncaster match.

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