Huckerby: Kids are not ready

Darren Huckerby today pulled no punches in his assessment of the next generation of Norwich City players as calls mount for some of the youngsters to be given a taste of first-team action.

Darren Huckerby today pulled no punches in his assessment of the next generation of Norwich City players as calls mount for some of the youngsters to be given a taste of first-team action.

With the Canaries chances' of reaching the top six hanging by the slenderest of threads going into the Coca-Cola Championship match at sixth-placed Preston tomorrow (3pm), it has been mentioned in some quarters that boss Nigel Worthington ought to pick players such as the Jarvis brothers, Ryan and Rossi, Michael Spillane and even giant teenage 'keeper Joe Lewis now the season is drawing to a close.

But Huckerby echoed his manager's view that it's far too soon for them to be thrown in.

“I heard a bit about giving the youngsters a chance but they have got to be good enough and they have got to be ready,” said Huckerby candidly. “Are they good enough? I don't know. Well, yes, we do because we see them every day in training.”

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City's joint top scorer added: “You know, for me, youngsters have got to be exceptional to get into the first team.

“And at the minute they are not ready, simple as that. They do not train with us enough, they don't look strong enough yet. That's my own opinion. I've seen a lot of young players and a lot of good players and at the minute the youngsters are not ready.”

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City are 11 points behind the Lilywhites in the table and if they lose at Deepdale even their slim mathematical play-off hopes will be over.

A win or a draw would mean there was still a mathematical chance of the Canaries reaching the top six but, as Huckerby admits, it would be highly unlikely.

That said, the 29-year-old is adamant that the players remain motivated and that they will be doing their very best to win the remaining five fixtures of the season, despite there being little being up for grabs.

“We must win anyway,” said Huckerby. “The play-offs are out of our reach this season but, like I say, we should be trying to win every game, not just one or two.

“It's nothing to do with motivation as you should want to win anyway, play-offs or no play-offs. It's about professional pride, which states that you should want to win a game. I think we are struggling for the play-offs but we should be looking to win every game nonetheless.”

Huckerby accepts that this season has been a major let-down for the club, players and fans alike, but is determined to remedy the situation next time around.

The fleet-footed front man acknowledges that there is the quality in the squad and, on paper, it look an impressive line-up, but he feels that counts for nothing if it is not replicated on the pitch.

“We know that we have let ourselves down, but there are still five games to go and we should be looking to win them all,” he said.

“The fact of the matter is we have not been good enough this season. Sometimes that happens. What's on paper? Reading weren't good enough on paper at the start of the season and they've run away with the league.

“Next season we have got to improve, otherwise we'll be in exactly the same position as we are in this season.

“We've got good players, but there's a difference between having good players and winning games in this league.”

Looking ahead to the Preston game, he added: “We have got to apply ourselves again in the manner we did against Leicester, who were the form team in the division, and we will stand a good chance. But it's difficult away from home. We have not performed as well away from home as we should have done this season. We have got to be strong and we have got to out-battle them first. After that we have got to play some football.”

And, as Huckerby admitted, it would be nice to grab the first goal in the game, especially away from home, for a change.

He said: “It's always difficult and I think that it's probably come from our Premiership season. We've always ended up chasing games and we have got to get that out of our system and get out of that habit pretty quickly.”

Given the level of performance at Leeds United and for the first 15 minutes of the Burnley game, City boss Nigel Worthington will be sorely tempted to return to a 4-5-1 formation.

As Moroccan international Youssef Safri is rated only 50-50 for the clash with the Lilywhites because of a stomach injury, there is the likelihood that Worthington will recall Dickson Etuhu against his old club.

That could mean Etuhu lining up in a midfield trio with Andy Hughes and Carl Robinson, with Jonatan Johansson playing on the right and Huckerby on the left. Striker Leon McKenzie could, therefore, be up front on his own.

Paul McVeigh is a certainty not to start as he is still recovering from the back injury he sustained against Sheffield United last month, while it has been confirmed that Matthieu Louis-Jean will not figure again this season.

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