Norwich City legend Huckerby hangs up his boots
Matthew Chambers AUDIO: Saturday, September 12, 2009 is a day Darren Huckerby will remember for a long time. Waking up, his mind still foggy from the anaesthetic, the painkillers dulling the soreness from the surgery to repair his shredded hip joint, it marked the beginning of a new era for the former Norwich City star.
Saturday, September 12, 2009 is a day Darren Huckerby will remember for a long time.
Waking up, his mind still foggy from the anaesthetic, the painkillers dulling the soreness from the surgery to repair his shredded hip joint, it marked the beginning of a new era for the former Norwich City star.
Sixteen years as a professional footballer had come to an end but crucially it had come on his terms and despite the discomfort and weeks, if not months, of painful rehabilitation that lie ahead Huckerby is adamant the timing of the operation is right.
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A lot of question marks still remain about what the future has in store for the 33-year-old, whose contract with the San Jose Earthquakes runs out at the end of the current Major League Soccer season.
At the minute Huckerby is taking life one day and, quite literally, one step at a time, but one thing is clear is that he's unlikely to be kicking a football in anger ever again.
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“I've got to give it a chance to see how it is but I'm 99per cent sure that I am done,” said Huckerby, who refuses to be downbeat about the situation. “The second part of my career starts now. I'm one of those kind of people who make a decision and stick to it. I'm content with what I have done in the game. I look at people like Dean Ashton who is struggling and who may have to retire having never fulfilled his potential. I look at where I started at the bottom of the third division and I have done everything that I have wanted to do in the game.
“It's true that you are a long time retired but is there any point playing just for the sake of it? I spoke to Gordon Strachan, he came out to San Francisco and we had a meal and had a chat about this and that and he said to me that if you can't influence a game like you did it's time to walk away. The last couple of months I haven't been influencing games as I know that I can do.
“The last few months have been difficult for me. I've been trying to play and been severely hindered and now we know why. It was pretty severe surgery that I had,” added Huckerby, whose operation was carried out by world-renowned specialist Marc J Phillppon at the Steadman Hawkins Clinic in Colorado.
“The operation was a success but we're probably talking about three to five months of rehabilitation. Before the operation I was diagnosed with a labral hip tear, which I'd had for some time, but when they went in it wasn't just a labral tear, there wasn't any labral left. It was completely shredded so they have had to go in and reconstruct a new one.
“I've taken a lot of hits over the years. Even in my time at Norwich two or three men marked me most games, all of them taking pot shots at me all the time. When we were in the Premier League I think I was the most fouled player in the league. All that takes its toll on you.
“Now, the plan is to be able to start walking again. At the minute it's a real struggle. I've got a machine being delivered that I've got to be on every day for seven or so hours for the next eight weeks to help in the rehab.”
Any hopes Canaries fans had of Huckerby returning to Carrow Road to pull on the yellow and green have sadly been dashed, but the City Hall of Fame member is hoping he can do the next best thing and has set his heart on becoming a coach at the club.
“I want to come back to Norwich City in some sort of capacity,” revealed Huckerby. “There is always the pull of wanting to come back and play for Norwich but I have got to do myself justice and do the fans justice.
“At nearly 34 with a smashed-up hip I don't think that I could do that. The club will always come first and I'd never do anything to jeopardise the club. I spoke to some of the lads and they say that League One is not the greatest standard and that they think I could do very, very well in it but I've got nothing to gain. The operation went well and if I wanted I could still play, but I feel the time is right to bow out.
“I'm not playing against players that two or three years ago wouldn't have stood a chance against me and who are now marking me out of the game. I don't think that my pride could take that. I'd rather go and get my coaching badges and hopefully come back to the club in that kind of capacity.”
Huckerby, who made 203 appearances scoring 48 goals for the Canaries, had hoped to see out his playing days at Carrow Road but that wasn't to be as the then manager Glenn Roeder refused to offer the two-time player of the year a new contract for the 2008/09 season.
It remains the only and biggest regret of Huckerby's fruitful career, which saw him play in the Champions League with Leeds and win Division One titles with Manchester City and Norwich.
“My plan was to play one more season and that would have been the season that we got relegated so I knew that I only had so much time left, but unfortunately for Norwich and myself the decision was made for me,” explained Huckerby.
“I did lose a bit of love for the game when I left Norwich if I'm honest, the way it was handled I just felt that I still had a lot to offer the team.
“I still felt that I had one good season left in me and that was the season that City got relegated, which, even if I had been at 80 or 90 per cent, I still feel that I would have had more than enough to make sure that we wouldn't have been relegated.
“In the back of my mind that will always hurt. I know that deep down that I should have been there for that season but what can you do?”
Huckerby has not approached anyone at Carrow Road with regards to a comeback but is keen to learn from people who know football inside out and that includes current City manager Paul Lambert.
Huckerby is also keen to help develop the young talent at the academy - one of whom, Thomas Huckerby, 9, already has a bit of a head start.
He said: “I haven't spoken to Norwich. There's a new a manager in there and he's got his own people in. I want to learn off the best and Mr Lambert knows what he's doing. He seems to be building a decent team and while I'm getting my coaching badges I want to learn off winners and learn off people who know how to manage. We'll have to see what happens.
“I love Norwich City, I really do. I really have got a passion for the club and I've got a passion to make the club better and I've got a passion to make the young boys better.
“We lost a lot of good young players through whatever reason. There's a big challenge there to bring young players on.
“Especially with the way that the money is at the minute - we haven't got any - we are going to need kids coming through. But just because you were a good player doesn't mean that you are going to be a good coach or a manager. I've got to learn and I want to learn from winners, from people who know the game. I hope I can get that sort of career on track and I'm willing to learn and willing to start at the bottom.”