Norwich defender Whitbread is aiming high

Norwich City centre back Zak Whitbread is determined to try and shine for club and country.

The Texan-born, Liverpool bred USA international had started three of the Canaries last four outings prior to today’s Championship trip to Sheffield United.

Whitbread’s City career since arriving on a free transfer from Millwall has been blighted by injury that saw him reduced to a bit part role during Norwich’s League One title march.

The 26-year-old is now desperate to reward Paul Lambert’s faith with a pivotal role in the club’s promotion push - which could also be the springboard to reviving his international career.

Whitbread has five caps for his country and was part of the USA squad that failed to qualify for the 2004 Olympics.

Bob Bradley’s World Cup finalists host Chile tomorrow in their first game of the New Year at David Beckham’s LA Galaxy Home Depot Centre.

The States have also lined up a March friendly double header against Argentina and Paraguay and Whitbread admits he would love to feature for the Stars and Stripes again in the future.

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He said: “Yeah definitely. I think without having those ambitions there is no point in playing football. Really all I have to focus on is getting back playing for Norwich, doing well here, and getting games under my belt.

“I won’t really worry about what comes after that. What I do know is that if I am doing my job correctly here and doing a decent job then hopefully something may develop.

“I’m three games in now and I feel a bit better after each game and it has gone from seven days of stiffness to six to five so I’m getting there. I feel good. I’ve enjoyed being back in and long may it continue.

“The second half of the season is almost like starting again. We have done well up to now but there is a long way to go and, yes, it’s a clich� but we have to take each game on its merits. But we have put ourselves in a great position to have a go.”

Whitbread’s return to the ranks is in contrast to defensive rival Jens Berthel Askou who linked up with the American’s former club Millwall on a month’s loan deal earlier this week.

He said: “I think it’s a good move for both parties. I spoke to a couple of the lads there after last weekend and they were obviously saying all the centre halves were out.

“I think it was getting to the stage where they might have to play full backs, the keeper and the cleaner there, but Jens will go there and do a great job.

“It’s good for him to get games because no-one wants to be sat around just training. I believe he will do a good job and the fans will really take to him.

“You look at the competition we have here and there are four or five centre backs fighting for two places. It’s unfortunate for Jens that he has found himself out of it but he is the type of lad who just wants to go and play football. I think he’ll be made up to go there to a good Championship side.”

Whitbread also predicts brighter times ahead for his boyhood club Liverpool with Kenny Dalglish back at the helm.

The Scouser graduated from the Reds academy system and played during their 2006 Champions League campaign before moving onto the Lions in search of regular first team football.

He said: “It’s nice to see him back and I don’t think there is anyone better for the job at the minute.

“Slowly but surely the lads will start getting their confidence back because that has been lacking but just his aura and his presence will lift the players massively and also the fans.

“If there is anyone to get a bit of time to make it work from the fans’ point of view it is the King.”