How Darel saw a revival coming
David Cuffley Darel Russell's bold forecast that Norwich City could challenge for a play-off place sounds like the positive thinking of a player whose side has just gone 13 Championship games unbeaten - but he made that claim 100 days earlier.
Darel Russell's bold forecast that Norwich City could challenge for a play-off place sounds like the positive thinking of a player whose side has just gone 13 Championship games unbeaten - but he made that claim 100 days earlier.
There were a few raised eyebrows when the ultra-competitive midfielder asserted after Glenn Roeder's first match in charge that the top six was still City's aim, not least when they crashed to defeat in their next two matches.
The Canaries had just drawn 2-2 in the local derby at home to Ipswich Town on November 4 to move from eight to nine points at the bottom of the table when Russell stated, quite sincerely: “Our aim is the play-offs.
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“That's what we wanted to do from the start of the season. I don't see why our aims and ambitions should change. If we strive for the stars and reach the moon, it's a good enough achievement.”
His comments may have seemed fanciful when City were beaten by Watford and Plymouth later the same week.
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But the disappointment expressed by the same player at dropping two points in Tuesday's 1-1 draw at home to Hull - exactly 100 days after the Ipswich clash - summed up how seriously his prediction is now being taken.
“We were desperate for the win and to a certain extent it feels like a loss in the changing room after the game,” said Russell. “The boys are disappointed. It just shows how far we've come now. We want to win every game and we're almost expecting to win every game. It's massively disappointing that we didn't pick up all three points.”
Even the fact that City won at Cardiff last weekend did not soften the blow delivered by Fraizer Campbell's second-half equaliser for Hull.
“As crazy as it sounds, we're disappointed,” said Russell. “It's a great run and four points from two games is fantastic but we wanted six.
“Hull probably came here looking not to get beaten and flood the game in a sense and I take it they've gone away delighted with the point they've got.
“Things were going OK. We got the goal and at half-time there were just a couple of things we needed to sort out.
“We did say we didn't want to concede early in the second half because we knew they were going to come out at us and, disappointingly so, we went out there and conceded a horrible goal. It then took until the last half-hour when we started to get to grips with the game and pass it but we just did a little bit too little, too late.”
Saturday's Championship trip to Leicester offers the Canaries the chance to stretch their undefeated run to 14 matches and chalk up a fourth successive away win, four weeks after the two sides drew 0-0 at Carrow Road.
“We owe Leicester one to a certain degree because we got a draw here and probably should have won the game,” said Russell.
“They're a good side, solid. We know what the manager's like. He creates a good, solid side that is hard to beat and they're going to be on their own patch, but we've been doing very well away from home and I hope we can take the game to them.
“We're not going to be playing like Hull, who came here to get a point. We're going to go there to try to win. That's the way to go about games and I hope we can continue this fantastic run we've been on.”
The state of the Walkers Stadium playing surface may be of some concern, with manager Roeder labelling it “the worst pitch in the Championship”, but Russell believes conditions underfoot have been difficult at home, too.
Interviewed for the Hull match programme and asked to explain why City's away results were currently better than their home form, he said: “Maybe at home the pitch has not been the greatest. The groundsmen work very hard, but we just haven't had much sunlight recently which hasn't helped them at all.”