Huckerby: Get behind us
CHRIS WISE Help us, not the opposition! That was Darren Huckerby's impassioned plea to Norwich City supporters ahead of today's potentially stormy home clash with Stoke.
Help us, not the opposition! That was Darren Huckerby's impassioned plea to Norwich City supporters ahead of today's potentially stormy home clash with Stoke.
The pressure will be firmly on the Canaries and their manager today after an abysmal 4-1 defeat at Crystal Palace - which shattered any hopes of reaching the play-offs - was followed by a public meeting in which hundreds of City fans called for Nigel Worthington to go.
Another gathering is planned close to the ground today as protestors attempt to build up a head of steam before the game gets under way.
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Huckerby knows the atmosphere could be strained, to say the least, by the time the players run out. But he hopes those calling for a change will forget their differences with the man in charge once the game starts to help their team to a much needed victory.
What he doesn't want is a repeat of scenes in the match against Brighton last month, when Carrow Road fell silent for long periods and the 10-man visitors fed off the negative vibes to give their hosts a real scare before two late goals from Robert Earnshaw settled everyone's nerves.
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"I have read all sorts of things about fans staying silent and not cheering," said Huckerby. "At the end of the day they pay their money and they can do what they want. But it certainly won't help us. Put it this way, I think it will play into Stoke's hands if the fans aren't behind us. Take that as you want. I get the impression there are some fans who don't want us to win at the moment. When we beat Brighton 3-0 it was a very strange atmosphere. It was like some of them wanted us to lose so they could get the manager out. That can't be right, whichever way you look at it.
"As I keep staying fans can do what they want - but they have got to remember that we are all in this together."
He added: "The fans here have always been good to me. Hopefully I can get them out of their seats and cheering us on at the weekend. That's certainly what I will be aiming to do.
"Hopefully if we play well against Stoke then the crowd will get behind us. The last thing we would want is to be playing some decent stuff and for there to be no reaction.
"We have got to concentrate on the game, that's our priority. There will be a lot of things going on in the background but we have got to rise above that. The gaffer will send out a team that he thinks will win the game - and it's up to us to do just that."
Huckerby is adamant that the players are equally passionate about the future of their football club as the fans and says they will be going all out to prove the point by providing an upbeat finale to what has been a traumatic week.
Asked about the meeting organised by Norwich City Independent Supporters' Association, which attracted over 500 fans to St Andrews Hall, he commented: "Every fan has got an opinion on what is best for the club. I have got no problem with that at all - as long as the fans realise that is our aim as well. We are a part of it. It shouldn't be fans against us. We should all be together in one aim - to make Norwich City a better team.
"It's everyone's right to organise a meeting if they see fit. The group obviously decided it was necessary but I just hope this doesn't make things a whole lot worse.
"I don't think it will have much outcome on what we do here - the only thing we are bothered about at the moment is getting three points on Saturday.
"I understand the frustrations, don't get me wrong. We have underperformed as a team this season, there's no doubt about it. We have had some good times recently - promotion to the Premiership and then nearly staying there. They expect better things from us and rightly so.
"But sometimes things don't always work out as you would like. If they did then every team would be top of the league.
"I have never experienced this sort of situation at a club that is mid-table in the Championship. I was at Lincoln City when they were near the bottom of the third division and it was nothing like this."
Huckerby has a double incentive to do well this afternoon. Memories of the lame surrender at Selhurst Park will be uppermost in his mind when he runs out, but he will also be looking to make amends for a disastrous evening in the away fixture against Stoke way back in August.
That match was a personal disaster for the City frontman, who was sent off for dissent in a depressing 3-1 defeat, and he will looking to turn the tables on the Potters this afternoon.
"It wasn't the best of games for me, that's for sure," he said. "I got sent off for the first time in my career so it was memorable for all the wrong reasons.
"But it has gone now and it won't be on my mind on Saturday. A positive result is all that matters.
"We went into the Palace game with two wins behind us but, for whatever reason, things just didn't work out for us down there. They were a much better team and deservedly won the game. All we can do now is make sure we turn things around.
"We have got to play for pride as much as anything else. We have got to try and win as many games as we can and get as high up the table as possible. There are people here who are playing for contracts, people who are trying to secure their long-term futures so there is everything to play for.
"It's a massive game for us - we are looking forward to it, and we are looking to win it."