Huckerby proves he has still got it

Darren Huckerby is counting down the days to the new season – but not just at the prospect of seeing Norwich City back in the Premier League.

The ex-Canary favourite is looking forward to entertaining fans at his matchday club when top-flight football returns to Carrow Road in August, but he also has a big date of his own to look forward to in September when he treads the boards in the Selco Masters Cup grand final in Manchester.

The 35-year-old Huckerby earned rave reviews for his performance in Sunday’s Yorkshire Masters in Sheffield, when he inspired Leeds United’s veterans to the title and a place in the national final.

He scored eight goals in three matches at the Motorpoint Arena, collecting both the Player of the Tournament and Golden Boot awards.

Huckerby scored twice as Leeds beat Barnsley 3-2 in their opening game, added two more in the 4-3 win over Huddersfield and then struck four times in a 5-3 victory over Sheffield United in the final, including two goals in the final minute.

“It wasn’t bad, apart from getting blisters halfway through,” said Huckerby, who will now take on the big guns at the MEN Arena on Sunday, September 4. “It won’t get any easier in the final against teams like Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool and Rangers – because then it goes into a straight knockout.”

Those four teams plus Leeds will be joined by the winners of the Midland, London and Central competitions, still to be held. Huckerby, who was released by City in 2008 and played for two seasons in the United States for San Jose Earthquakes, enjoys keeping himself fit for the odd occasion when he still ties on his boots, but admitted he was sorry the Canaries did not field a Masters team. They last competed in the event in 2003 and 2004.

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He said: “I play five-a-side with Paul McVeigh but it’s a shame Norwich haven’t got a Masters team – it would be good to play with people like Paul, Iwan Roberts, Marc Edworthy and a few others. I’m not sure exactly what the rules are regarding age but I am sure we could put a decent team out.”

He is not, however, tempted to return to the longer form of the game at any level.

“No, no, it’s all right doing these little cameos, you can get away with it. We have a Legends’ match that Dale Gordon is organising at Diss on Sunday, which I’m looking forward to playing in, providing the blisters are all right, but there is a difference between that and playing proper, full-on football,” he said.

Meanwhile, double player of the season Huckerby is confident City will enjoy greater top flight success than their 2004-05 campaign.

“I was confident last time but we didn’t get the right people in at the right time. If we had signed Dean Ashton earlier, we would have stayed up,” he said.

“The manager’s already done well bringing people in and I think the club has already spent more money than we did last time. They’ve backed him in the transfer market, which is a good thing. That’s what it’s all about. If you are going to compete with the rest, you have to spend.”