Hartson: I’m ready for City challenge
CHRIS LAKEY Canaries new boy John Hartson says he is ready to fill the toughest role in Championship football this weekend and bring Norwich City's goal-scoring drought to an end.
Canaries new boy John Hartson says he is ready to fill the toughest role in Championship football this weekend and bring Norwich City's goal-scoring drought to an end.
City have failed to hit the back of the net in 555 minutes of football stretching back over five league and cup games, equalling a club record and helping to seal Peter Grant's fate last week.
But within hours of the manager's departure, caretaker boss Jim Duffy had named Hartson as his number one target - and the West Bromwich Albion striker will be sent out against Bristol City on Saturday with just one instruction - to score.
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With Jamie Cureton out through injury, the spotlight will be firmly on Hartson, but the 32-year-old, who has struggled to get a look-in at Albion this season, says it won't affect him.
“It has always been on me,” said Hartson, a former team-mate of Dion Dublin at Celtic. “If I didn't want all the eyes on me I would be down in Swansea walking on the beach somewhere with my kids, still getting paid the same, still doing the same things, having Sunday roast up at mum and dad's.
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“I have come for the challenge. I have three months to help Norwich - I can have a look at myself while I am here and they can have a look at me, and other clubs can have a look at me and then I will know myself where I am in terms of my position and where I go from here.
“I know what to expect. I am experienced, I know what's ahead. I am under no illusions. I am not 25 any more, but I am ready for it I am hungry for success and to help Norwich climb out of the position they are in.”
Hartson is clearly at a crossroads in his career, but says his job is a simple one - to get Norwich out of a hole.
“I am not here to try and win my place back at West Brom,” he said. “The bottom line is I spoke to (manager) Tony Mowbray a few times about my position at West Brom and he likes to play with quick strikers, strikers who play on the shoulders.
“He said that to me a few times and he was very fair with me and honest. He said, 'who knows John, if you do great at Norwich you can come back here and play for me'. That's exactly what he said.
“But I am not here to do that. I am just here to help Norwich first and foremost in their position, to then help myself and then see what happens.
“Who knows, I may not score a goal in 10 games and then I will know by Christmas if it's time to hang my boots up - I've got over 200 goals in my career and I can't score now for love nor money. All of a sudden I might come here and get goals, set things up and do well and there will be other offers.”
Hartson - capped 50 times for Wales - turned down other offers but was reluctant to drop below Championship level, opting instead for a short-term deal at Carrow Road which will see him stay until January 1, although City have the option to end his loan after 28 or 56 days.
“I had a few offers to go out on loan, but I didn't really fancy dropping down too far,” he said. “I have always said I wouldn't want to drop down. Having played at the top all my life I didn't want to drop down too many levels - as I get older I won't do that.”
Hartson, who is ineligible to play in the away game against West Brom on Saturday, October 27, is likely to be thrown straight in at the deep end on Saturday, but believes City can recover from their dreadful start to the season.
“There is a challenge but it is not all doom and gloom,” he said. “We've played eight or nine games and got eight points - West Brom have only got 17 points and they're third, so we are only nine points off third - as much as we're third from bottom and haven't scored for six games.
“But Saturday is a good game for myself to start out. Bristol City are a newly-promoted side, not being disrespectful but it is not as if we have to go to Sheffield United or Watford, that would be a much tougher debut.
“It is a good game, it will be a full house and one I am looking forward to, if I am involved. I am in a beautiful hotel, I can prepare properly, get the right food down me and stay and do my extra workload. Everything is here for me and there are no excuses really. I am just going to give it my best shot.”
Hartson hasn't played for West Brom since coming on as a substitute in the 1-0 league win over Cardiff eight months ago and his only outings this season have been two matches for the reserves - he didn't get on the scoresheet, but he did miss a penalty.
“I have played a couple of reserve games and I feel a lot sharper than I did six moths ago,” he said. “I've had a full pre-season. I just saw this as a challenge to go and play football again and I've been quite excited about it. They are a good group of players.
“I don't know what the situation is, whether I will go straight in at the weekend but with the sessions I have had yesterday and today I have coped quite well.
“I feel okay, obviously I am short of games but I played against Stoke reserves and Leicester reserves so I have had a couple of outings.”