It's so good to be back - Shackell
RICK WAGHORN Defender Jason Shackell is determined to put four miserable months on the sidelines behind him as he looks to cement his place back in Nigel Worthington's Norwich City first team.
Defender Jason Shackell is determined to put four miserable months on the sidelines behind him as he looks to cement his place back in Nigel Worthington's Norwich City first team.
The 22-year-old's season has been dogged first by illness and then injury. A bout of mumps ruined his summer and, although he forced his way into the senior side for most of August and September, he lost his place to loan signing Calum Davenport.
A serious ankle injury in a reserve match against Watford at Carrow Road on October 3 then put paid to his hopes of a recall as first Davenport and then Zesh Rehman took his place alongside Gary Doherty.
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Before Saturday's full outing against Stoke City at Carrow Road, Shackell's previous first-team start came in the Carling Cup home victory over Northampton on September 20.
On Saturday, however, Shackell returned with a bang and, with the manager describing his man of the match performance against Stoke as “spot on”, he reminded everyone of just what he can do when form and fitness allow.
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“From a personal point of view, it was just really nice to be back,” said Shackell, who barely missed a header in the whole game.
“I felt solid, I felt OK fitness-wise and I was just glad that I came through the game unscathed,” said Shackell. “But obviously while you always like to do well personally, the most important thing is that we won the game and came away with all three points. To do that was really pleasing.”
Shackell is the first to admit that it has been frustrating but he insists he has emerged a stronger person as a result. It is, after all, all part of life's rich learning curve.
“You're always going to get these things happening to test you and this was my first real injury of my career and, yes, it has been really frustrating at times,” he said.
“But I think perhaps it has made me a little more stronger mentally. Now all I'm doing is looking forward. I'm not looking back. Hopefully, this will all help me in the future.”
Having a fit Shackell back in the frame will certainly help Norwich's cause and, defensively at least, they looked more than a half-decent unit against the Potters - although it needed a world-class save from Robert Green to spare City's blushes before Jonatan Johansson's late winning goal.
“Maybe we didn't play the prettiest football at times, but I still thought we looked strong, solid and we worked hard for each other as a team and we won. That's what it's all about - winning games of football.”
Of course, Shackell is well aware that a big test awaits on Saturday when, in every likelihood, he will be given the chance to lock horns - if not elbows - with one-time City transfer target Rob Hulse as the Canaries face in-form Leeds United at Elland Road.
Fresh from Leeds' 2-1 triumph at Crystal Palace, it promises to be yet another stiff examination for Worthington's men.
“If I'm selected, it's going to be another big match and one that we've now got to focus on,” said Shackell, with both Youssef Safri and Adam Drury likely to return to Worthington's plans.
“We'll get one or two of the boys back and we've just got to go in there with a similar attitude to the one we had on Saturday.
“We've got to be solid, work hard for each other and when we defend, we defend from the front and when we attack, we attack from the back and, hopefully, we can go there and try to get a result.”