Norwich City Memory Lane: Exciting times for keeper as Brazil beckons...
- Credit: © ARCHANT NORFOLK PHOTOGRAPHIC
John Ruddy had his ups and downs with the Canaries – when Paddy Davitt spoke to him in late 2013, things were going well
Norwich City’s keeper is an England regular with realistic ambitions to be on the plane to Brazil for the World Cup next summer.
The 27-year-old was also courted by one of the biggest clubs in the world during the summer recess before a new contract at Carrow Road signalled he is ready to pledge his best years to a club that rescued him from the abyss.
“There were points I came home from training and I didn’t want to do it any more. It had got to that stage,” says Ruddy, when he reflects on the back catalogue of loan moves that defined his five years spent on Merseyside at Everton.
“I lost interest in football and going to training and doing stuff that previously I had loved doing. You do question where your career is going. I was in limbo after finishing at Motherwell and not really knowing where I was going. I knew going back to Everton that opportunities would be limited and then as soon as Fraser (Forster) went back to Newcastle I made a point of saying to my agent, ‘Get on to Norwich’.
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“With living in Liverpool for five years and then Scotland for one my wife was desperate to get back near to her family and I come from this part of the world as well so it has worked out for the best and I am enjoying my football again.”
Family ties would clearly have been a consideration in the summer if Chelsea had firmed up their initial interest.
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“I am very settled here,” he says. “Norwich gave me an opportunity and pulled me from obscurity when I was finishing at Motherwell.
“Chelsea of course would excite any player and I was very, very flattered but at the end of the day I said to the club if they make a bid that you deem acceptable then we take it from there, if not, then there is nothing more to be said. I was not going to come back and try to force a move. That is not what I am about. I recognise what Norwich have done for my career. That was the be all and end all.
“It wasn’t, ‘Chelsea are in, right I am off,’ because Norwich have given me at platform to perform week in, week out and I have worked very hard to get to that position.
“As soon as the Chelsea interest went away the club were happy to sit down and discuss things and I was more than happy to do the same.
“My daughter was born in Norwich, she is nearly two, and we were at the stage where we wanted to settle down somewhere and build a family.
“My lad had it up until he was three when he was moving up and down the country, from Scotland to wherever I was going on loan. It was tough for him.
“He has just started a new school now and I am desperate to get him settled and into an environment that he is comfortable with. I think it is important, I don’t want to distract them from their education and at the same time if it is not right for the whole family it would be selfish of me to do it.”
Ruddy’s fractured career trajectory until he found a sense of order at Norwich arms him with a clear sense of perspective on the vagaries of the professional game.
Chelsea’s close season interest came just weeks after he had returned from five months out with a thigh injury suffered against the Toffees back in November 2012.
“It was tough because you are in six days a week working to your maximum, or at least as hard as your body can go at each stage, and there seems to be no light at the end of that tunnel when you are out for that length of period,” he says, sat inside one of the temporary buildings at the club’s Colney training base on a miserable Tuesday lunchtime as the rain hammers down outside.
“I know Elliott Bennett is going through that stage at the moment but he is a fantastic character and professional and he will do the right things to make sure he comes back fitter and stronger.
“It does knock you, but at the time I did the injury at Everton I was in a lot of pain. I felt it pop and it didn’t feel very comfortable. We put the bandage and the ice on it and when I came in the following morning it was clear to the physios it was a bad one so we prepared ourselves for the worst. The specialist confirmed it and I was operated on a week later.
“Mentally it was tough. You see the lads coming in for training every day with a smile on their face, although it wasn’t that tough in the middle of winter when it was quite nice being tucked up inside in the warm, but, seriously, you would go to all the home games and that was hard to watch and then listen to the away games and that was even tougher. I thought they did superb though.
“I was out for five months but it does take a few more weeks to get up to the speed of things. That was why it was slightly more extended than we thought originally.”
A broken finger injury also robbed Ruddy of an unexpected chance to be part of England’s European Championship campaign the previous summer. Such unforeseen experiences such as those allied to the intense competition to make Roy Hodgson’s final cut for next summer’s global gathering ensures Norwich’s number one is taking nothing for granted after becoming a regular member of the senior England squad.
“I’ve been called injury-prone now, which I find strange. The thigh injury was a freak one and I had the finger injury over that summer,” he says. “I don’t think that really knocked me as much as people think. It was just such a surprise to get called into the squad in the first place, to the extent that I had my honeymoon plans and my wedding plans so my summer was always mapped out; when the injury happened instead of dwelling on it and feeling down I had other things to focus on and prepare and thankfully I managed to get back into the squad.
“There’s no way I think I am there already. I know the only way I get on that plane (to Brazil) is by playing well for Norwich. We have let too many goals in collectively and individually in the early part of the season. I am very harsh on myself and I judge myself critically so I’m not jumping ahead of myself. I need to keep clean sheets and keep the goal tally down. If we keep clean sheets at Norwich then we win games. It is as simple as that. That is what we need to start doing and then if I do that I give Roy a headache.
“The more squads you are in the more comfortable you do feel. I never felt overawed in the first place even though some of those players I had looked up to and what they have done in their careers, but they are all just genuinely nice fellas. There is not one bad person in there or one you wouldn’t want to spend time with. It is just a fantastic group to be involved with and to be at the World Cup would be a dream come true.”
Ruddy’s nomadic experience leaves him well placed to shed some light on the difficult process of integrating so many new players from home and abroad into a dressing room.
“I think that is an issue but the club did it well for me in the sense they had got most of the lads in by the time we went to America, except perhaps for Hoops (Gary Hooper).
“We certainly had the core of the squad,” he says.
“I must say the new lads have settled well. They have added to the personality and characters in the dressing room and they are good footballers, but there is always what happens off the pitch as well and people don’t see that side of things.
“They have to bring their families over and get settled, find houses, adapt to the English way of life. I can’t imagine how difficult that is.
“It is hard to put your finger on why things have not clicked.
“We have quality players and the manager has improved the squad again and with the players we have got we can turn it around.
“We’ve played six or seven of the top teams but we know what we have to do, we have to get points and preferably wins against those teams around us.
“I thought against Cardiff at home we were outstanding and did everything but score. These are the fine margins, but we need to start delivering results.”
This is an extract from an article which first appeared in the Canary magazine in 2013 and is reproduced with permission from Norwich City FC.