Norwich City’s Adam Drury proves he still has role to play in Premier League
In paying tribute to Adam Drury after his return to the first team against Tottenham over the Christmas period, City boss Paul Lambert was moved to say that he wished he had seen the full-back in his heyday.
“He has had an absolutely brilliant career at the football club,” said Lambert. “I have nothing but admiration for Adam Drury as a lad and a professional. He is a top pro and as a lad he is a top lad. I probably came to the club at the wrong time to get everything out of him.
“I’d like to have seen him in his prime when he was 25, 26 and seen what he was like. He is one of the best one-on-one defenders that I have seen in a long while.”
Well, 26 Drury may no longer be, but Lambert didn’t have too long to wait to see him roll back the years to something reminiscent of his early days at Carrow Road, when his first three seasons at the club brought, respectively, a play-off final appearance in Cardiff, the player of the season trophy and the honour of skippering the club into the Premiership as Nationwide League Division One champions.
After facing Spurs last month in his first Premier League game for 6� years, before sitting out the Fulham home match, the 33-year-old returned to the Canaries’ starting eleven at Queens Park Rangers and, until his substitution midway through the second half, looked as if he had never been away from top-flight football.
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That solid display at left-back was followed by a more adventurous afternoon as City turned on the style against Burnley in the FA Cup, Drury joining the attack with real purpose and playing a key part in three of the goals in a 4-1 victory.
There were times during the 4-0 home defeat by MK Dons in the Carling Cup back in August – Drury getting his first senior start for six months – when one wondered whether he would get another chance at Premier League level, but it was a rare off night and, in truth, there was barely a decent performance in the whole side. Form, as they say, is temporary. Class is permanent.
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Now he is on the brink of his 350th first team game for City. At 349 he stands level with the great Barry Butler, and his next appearance will take him to a notable landmark reached previously by only 15 City players, most recently Craig Fleming and, before that, Daryl Sutch – two of his former team-mates.
When Drury stepped out for interviews before clocking up game number 300 at Stockport in a League One fixture just over two years ago – a match in which he had to play at right-back – he joked that we were talking as if he was Methuselah.
But even while plying his trade in the less glamorous surroundings of England’s third division, he says he never lost hope of playing again in the top flight.
After his Spurs recall, he said: “You’ve got to believe in it. There have been some lean times but you enjoy the good times when they come around as well. There’s no point worrying about what happened in the past and looking at when things weren’t great. Don’t be negative about it, be positive.”
One would not expect Drury to be playing in the Premier League every week, especially with Lambert spoilt for choice at left-back. Marc Tierney did not miss a league game this season before being ruled out of the Spurs match with a groin injury, and Kyle Naughton displayed his versatility with an excellent performance against Fulham, switched from his more accustomed right-back role. It may be that City’s longest-serving player will be back on the bench at The Hawthorns, or even one of City’s travelling extras.
But he has certainly stated his case for a meaningful role in their Premier League plans over the next four months, and the chance to help them secure a longer stay at the top level – and a happier ending to the campaign – than in 2005.
“It’s got a little bit quicker, perhaps, since then,” said Drury a few days ago, reflecting on his last taste of the top flight.
“I think maybe now it’s a bit more like international football where teams keep the ball and don’t give it away as much as they used to.
“If you give it away, you don’t get it back too quickly, so you end up doing a lot of running without the ball. But I think it’s the best league in the world and that’s where everyone wants to be.”
Everyone, including Adam Drury, and rightly so. Who knows, he may even get that long overdue place in City’s Hall of Fame.