Hucks to take a bow

Matthew Chambers Darren Huckerby will finally be able to take a well-deserved bow in front of the Norwich City faithful before Sunday's Championship match against Nottingham Forest at Carrow Road.

Matthew Chambers

Darren Huckerby will finally be able to take a well-deserved bow in front of the Norwich City faithful before Sunday's Championship match against Nottingham Forest at Carrow Road.

There was huge disappointment among the Canaries' fans when the decision to release Huckerby was not announced until after the final match of last season, denying him a last appearance in front of a full match day crowd.

The timing of the farewell is, however, quite apt as it was before the Forest home game on Boxing Day 2003 that Huckerby signed permanently for the club, after an initial loan spell, and was introduced to the crowd by joint majority shareholders Delia Smith and Michael Wynn Jones.

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“It's nice that it is going to happen before the Forest game on Sunday as that has a lot of symmetry about it,” said Huckerby. “It was disappointing that I could not have said farewell a long time ago, but this will put the matter to bed once and for all.

“It's not something I agreed to straightaway. I didn't want people to think it was an ego trip. I get all the thanks I need from the fans in the street or at the ground, but it will be nice nonetheless for myself, my wife and my kids.”

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Huckerby has been an ever-present at home matches since arriving back in Norwich in November following the end of the Major League Soccer season in the United States, where he plays for San Jose Earthquakes.

The 32-year-old, who scored 48 times in 203 appearances for the Canaries, freely admits it has been hard watching from the stands and seeing them struggling, especially as he feels his playing days are still far from over.

“It's difficult as I still think that I could be out there doing a job. It'll be easier when I've retired and can accept that those days are gone,” he said.

The sight of Huckerby in full flight down the wing terrorising opposition defences is, sadly, a thing of the past although there has been some light among the gloom in the shape of on-loan striker Leroy Lita.

The diminutive front man has been at his goal-getting best since joining the Canaries from Reading, scoring seven times in 14 appearances, and Huckerby is just another in a long list of admirers.

“Lita is a key player for Norwich. Without his goals then Norwich would be in the bottom three,” said Huckerby, who was at Carrow Road to see his latest match-winning exploits against Charlton. “Norwich will be desperate to keep him but it's not as simple as that. Norwich would have to beg and borrow and still that might not be enough.”

Huckerby's signing gave City fans a terrific Christmas present back in 2003 and Lita's signature, even to the end of the season, would be a similar, if not even bigger, coup.

“He's clearly a very talented player and there will be lots of teams out there, come January, who will be eager to snap him up,” added Huckerby.

“His situation is different to mine, though, when I was on loan at Norwich and before I signed on. He's a young lad and he's still got a long career ahead of him. He's a Premier League quality player basically and he's on the up. With Norwich where they are in the table, it will be very difficult for them to hold on to Lita.

“I spoke to him recently and he really likes it at Norwich. I told him that the fans are great and if you're doing well they really get behind you - we'll all have to wait and see.”

Huckerby feels that without Lita's attacking flair, City will undoubtedly struggle.

He said: “They did what they needed to do against Charlton. But it was a tale of two teams really struggling. I've not seen many teams worse than Charlton and that explains why they are where they are in the league and Norwich weren't that much better.

“If you take Lita out of the team then you have got to wonder where the goals are going to come from. They play some decent football and keep the ball very well but what they need is a bit more penetration up front.

“When you play one man up front then the rest of the team need to wade in with the goals. Matty Pattison and Lee Croft have done their bit but others need to chip in too.”

He added: “I think it's difficult for David Bell at the minute as he's being played out of position. I think his natural position would be on the right, but Crofty is playing so well that he's keeping him out of that position. He just doesn't look comfortable on the left.”

Fans will get one more chance to see Huckerby playing in yellow and green, however, when he joins former Norwich City stars for what he says will be his last game in England - at Great Yarmouth Town Football Club.

The winger is lining up for a Norwich City Legends team against a Yarmouth XI on Wednesday, January 28.

The game has been organised by another former City star, Dale Gordon, now director of football at Yarmouth.

It will be Huckerby's second appearance at Wellesley Road after he played for Norwich against the Bloaters before the start of the club's Premiership season in 2004-5.

Tickets for the game cost £10 for adults and £5 for children and are available from Legends Lounge Bar, Sandown Road; Pub on the Prom, Marine Parade; David Mobbs Sports in King Street and Norwich City ticket offices at Carrow Road and The Mall shopping centre, Norwich.

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