Make Dion's day
Chris Lakey Darel Russell says he is prepared to make the ultimate footballing sacrifice to ensure Dion Dublin finishes his illustrious career on a high note. The Canaries go into Sunday's game at Sheffield Wednesday free of pressure after securing their Championship status last weekend, but Russell said they are desperate for Dublin to end with a win - and a goal.
Darel Russell says he is prepared to make the ultimate footballing sacrifice to ensure Dion Dublin finishes his illustrious career on a high note.
The Canaries go into Sunday's game at Sheffield Wednesday free of pressure after securing their Championship status last weekend, but Russell said they are desperate for Dublin to end with a win - and a goal.
And if that means turning down a golden chance to allow the 39-year-old striker to get on the scoresheet, then so be it.
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“Me personally, yes I'm prepared to do that - and I am quite sure a few others would as well,” said Russell.
“I think if I was on the goal line and could score, I would pull the ball back and let him tap it in. He has had such a great career and it would be a great accolade for him, it would be the final icing on the cake.
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“From my point of view I would love to see him score.
“The gaffer has said we will be respectful, it is not a case of going there and relaxing. We are not playing to be safe but we have the big guy, the Big D, and I am quite sure he would want to finish his career with a win and scoring as well.
“I am quite sure all the boys will be motivated to go out there and get a result for him as well for themselves and the team and the fans.”
Dublin's position mirrors that of another great City striker, Iwan Roberts, who scored twice at Crewe on the final day of the title winning season in 2004 - with his team-mates doing all they could to help him to a hat-trick.
Dublin has nine league and cup goals this season - giving him a career total of 234 - but came mighty close to moving into double figures last weekend with an extraordinary effort from inside his own half in the 3-0 win over QPR.
It was Russell who was left to long-distance scoring honours when, just six minutes after he and Dublin came on as substitutes, he scored the goal which wrapped up the points - and safety.
“We both came on at the same time and I got my opportunity and I scored and he had one but just didn't take the safety catch off enough,” said Russell. “It was a great effort and he was unlucky not to put it in.”
But while Russell and Co would love to see Dublin score, the 27-year-old says City will be playing it seriously on Sunday, with Wednesday one of five teams fighting to avoid the remaining relegation spot.
“If we were in that position we would want other teams to be putting their full team out and trying,” said Russell. “I don't wish anyone to be in a relegation fight, but we are not going to make it an easy day for Sheffield Wednesday, we won't put out a weak team just because we're safe. That's out of order - you don't want other teams sweating on their future and their Championship status with us messing around. We will take it seriously.”
While the heat is off for City, Russell has a point to prove, having been surprisingly omitted from the starting line-up for the past two games. With on-loan Kieran Gibbs back at Arsenal, Russell is hoping for a return this weekend - for keeps.
“There was a sense of relief last weekend from my own point of view because when you are not on the pitch you can't really affect things at important times,” he said. “You feel that you hope the boys can do it and we played fantastic on Saturday and got the result.
“But I don't take anything in football as a surprise any more. The manager picks the best team and one he feels will go and get the best result. It's a team game and that was his choice, it was no problem. I am old enough and big enough to accept that and when I have my opportunity I have to show what I can do and I was glad when I came on on Saturday and got a goal because it keeps me knocking on the door and shows I want to be in the team and playing regularly.”
It was a spectacular way to sign off for the season in front of a Carrow Road crowd, with Russell taking advantage as Rangers goalkeeper Lee Camp went walkabout way out of his area, floating the ball into an empty net from 40 yards - by which time the midfielder was already celebrating.
“It just kind of appeared with the goalkeeper trying to challenge me in the middle of the park,” said Russell. “As soon as I got a little bit of space I knew the goal was free and it was a matter of concentration to get it goalwards. I didn't actually see it hit the back of the net. I knew when it took the first bounce that I was on target and it was going in and I started to celebrate from there. It was nice for it to go in.
“I've had a first goal of the season before, when I was at Stoke, so it was nice to end the season with the last goal at home. Hopefully that will give me a good karma for next season to score a few more.”