Hucks the key to City success

JONATHAN REDHEAD His manager thinks he has still got plenty to learn, but a Norwich City side without Darren Huckerby is unlikely to win - if the stats are anything to go by.


His manager thinks he has still got plenty to learn, but a Norwich City side without Darren Huckerby is unlikely to win - if the stats are anything to go by.

If City boss Peter Grant decides Huckerby is not doing enough to warrant a place in the side and not working hard enough when he has not got the ball, then the 30-year-old winger has been told he faces the chop.

But all those who claim City cannot win without the talents of their talisman can point to an alarming statistic which shows just how much the Canaries have come to rely on the former Coventry, Leeds and Manchester City star.

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In the past three seasons, including the current campaign, City have only managed to win one league game in which Huckerby has not played any part.

That came in a 2-0 home victory against a poor Plymouth Argyle side in a lunchtime kick off back in September last year.

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In the same period, seven other matches without his influence have resulted in one draw and six defeats, including four games this season. There have been three Carling Cup wins without him in that time, but all against lower league opposition.

Since his debut in the 2-0 home win over Burnley in September 2003, Huckerby has an impressive appearance record for City, missing just 13 league games in all.

Almost half came in his first season when he was absent five times towards the end of 2003 as City began their march towards the Championship title and the Premiership in 2004.

But back then it appears he was not missed as much as now as the Canaries bagged four wins and a draw including the famous 2-0 win at Ipswich that took the side to the top of the table.

And although he has been warned he needs to do more for his side, the flying winger is still rated as the Canaries' top player of the season according to the latest Actim Index Player Rankings and is currently riding high in 10th place in the rankings.

Despite playing around 400 minutes less than the other players in the top ten, Huckerby has managed to deliver more crosses than anyone else in the Coca Cola Championship and is the second most prolific dribbler behind Cardiff's Paul Parry.

But the rest of his teammates no longer feature high up on the list of the top 100 performers - a far cry from two months ago when no less than six City players were in the list and all of them were rated among the top 50 players in the league.

Skipper Adam Drury, Carl Robinson and Paul Gallacher have all gone from the 100, with City's form player of recent weeks, Dickson Etuhu coming in alongside Jason Shackell, Lee Croft and Huckerby.

Midfielder Etuhu is the only City player to have gone up in the rankings since the side destroyed Barnsley 5-1 at home in the heady days of late August.

He is now at 51 in the list, ahead of Shackell at 54th, but behind Croft in 30th and Huckerby. But those three men have also seen their stock fall since the late August as Huckerby dropped five places, Shackell six and Croft 27.

Of course, these are only statistics but the Actim Index is the official ratings system for the Premiership and the Coca-Cola Championship and has been proven to identify the best players.

Each player earns points based on their positive actions during the game (such as shots, saves and tackles), their time on the pitch, the final match result and the goals scored.

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