Reserve league football returning to Norwich

David Cuffley Regular reserve team football will be back on the Norwich City fixture list next season.The Canaries were re-admitted to the Football Combination at yesterday's annual meeting in London.

David Cuffley

Regular reserve team football will be back on the Norwich City fixture list next season.

The Canaries were re-admitted to the Football Combination at yesterday's annual meeting in London.

They will play 18 matches in the East Division of the Combination, and have also been invited to take part in a new under-21 knockout competition run by the league.


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City pulled out of the reserve league at the end of the 2007-8 season, former boss Glenn Roeder preferring them to arrange their own friendlies, but games were thin on the ground despite special fixtures at home to Arsenal - which attracted an attendance of 7,138 - and away to Chelsea and occasional matches against Ridgeons League opposition.

Their nine East Division opponents in 2009-10, home and away, will be Colchester, Ipswich, Luton, Northampton, Peterborough, Southend, Stevenage Borough, Watford and Wycombe.

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Manager Bryan Gunn welcomed the news after a year in which those on the fringes of the first team were desperately short of match practice.

He said: "It will give us a structure to work to and enable those outside the first team to maintain their fitness levels.

"Players last season not featuring in the 11 had no real game programme."

There will also be the chance for City's Academy prospects - many of them now with professional deals - to step up their football education.

"It will give our young professionals the opportunity to play at a more senior level and to progress more quickly," said Gunn, with first team coach Ian Crook, who took charge of reserve matches in the later stages of last season, set to play a key part in their development.

"Ian will be working closely with the young players and that was one of the roles he was brought in for, and Ian Butterworth and Paul Crichton will both be involved, too."

The Canaries have yet to decide on which day of the week they will play their home games.

The under-21 knockout competition will be run across the whole of the Totesport.com-sponsored Combination, not within regions, with a goalkeeper the only over-age player permitted.

Brentford, Crawley and Eastbourne Borough also sought election to the Combination, while Charlton, Cheltenham, Lewes and Yeovil withdrew.

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