Paul ends wait for Carrow Road return

It's been a long time between matches for Paul Franklin as he makes a working return to Carrow Road for the first time in more than a decade tonight.


It's been a long time between matches for Paul Franklin as he makes a working return to Carrow Road for the first time in more than a decade tonight.

Franklin - former assistant to ex-Canaries boss Martin O'Neill - is aiming for Norfolk Senior Cup glory for his struggling Norwich United side against free-scoring Dereham.

The last time Franklin was directly involved at Carrow Road was alongside O'Neill for a 2-2 draw with Grimsby on December 9, 1995. He then had a couple of matches riding solo when O'Neill went to Leicester before swiftly renewing their relationship at Filbert Street.

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“It will be nice to be involved there again,” he said. “With the facilities and the pitch they have I hope it will bring out the best in our players.”

Nowadays Franklin mixes in the less rarefied atmosphere of the Ridgeons Premier Division, and the lower reaches at that.

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United are struggling big time, third from bottom of the table - a position which would see them relegated at the end of the season, always assuming sufficient teams want to come up from the First Division.

It's been tough this season after seeing a whole team disappear for pastures new a year ago, but the Senior Cup final is something of a silver lining.

Cup finals can spring major surprises, and Franklin is hoping for that tonight.

“On current form you would have to say we are big underdogs,” said Franklin, who has never knowingly minced his words. “But you would hope that current form flies out of the window in this situation. “e have as good a chance as they do - these games are 50-50.”

However, United's league form - six defeats in a row - is hard to ignore.

“As much as you try and tell everyone to forget what is happening in the league, it's unlikely that they will be able to go out there full of confidence,” admitted Franklin.

“The first 20 minutes will be crucial for us and it could change the players' attitudes fairly quickly. What I'd hope is that we can get to the 20-minute mark playing well and without conceding and that will give us a good chance.

“Ultimately, though, there is the fact that Dereham have plenty of confidence - as high as ours may be low.”

There is always a chance that Dereham's confidence may be too high: Franklin has been around long enough to know every trick in the book, and lulling the Magpies into a false sense of security would be just another tactic for a man who served his footballing apprenticeship at Watford under Graham Taylor.

“Dereham have been free-scoring and have had a very good season and they will feel that they have a very good chance of winning,” he said. “The reverse psychology is that they may probably feel they only have to turn up to win it.

“There is possibly a little bit of cockiness about them - but perhaps the results they've got they are perfectly entitled to feel cocky.”

Franklin leads an experience coaching team, along with joint manager Bruce Cunningham and coach Donny Pye, whose combined knowledge of the local football scene is arguably unrivalled by any other Ridgeons League club - although he has lost his leader on the pitch, former Wroxham stalwart Darren Gill, because of injury.

“You don't often get to score the winning goal from the dug-out,” laughed Franklin. “At the end of the day it is up to the players out on the pitch.”

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