Russell lifts the lid on his Norwich City departure
Ex-Canary Darel Russell explains his Carrow Road exit - and reveals his trials and tribulations under Glenn Roeder and Bryan Gunn - in an exclusive interview with CHRIS LAKEY, Darel Russell says he has no problem with Norwich City over the manner of his departure - but admits that all has not always been rosy in the Canaries garden.
Ex-Canary Darel Russell explains his Carrow Road exit - and reveals his trials and tribulations under Glenn Roeder and Bryan Gunn - in an exclusive interview with CHRIS LAKEY,
Darel Russell says he has no problem with Norwich City over the manner of his departure - but admits that all has not always been rosy in the Canaries garden.
The story is a simple one - one that unfolds in every corner of the game every time a player reaches the end of his contract: he wanted a three-year deal, City offered two years - and when he decided that perhaps it was the best he could get, it was too late. Paul Lambert had found replacements.
“There was obviously a situation of the contract and my belief was I would have preferred to have three years,” explained Russell. “The club only wanted to offer me two years and I believed that we were in the process of negotiating that and when the time came to sitting down and actually trying to nail things down, there wasn't actually a contract there left for me.
“I don't think you can have much complaint if the manager has plenty of money to spend - if you go out and spend over �1m on a player your finances are going to be limited after that and that was obviously more of a preferred option. That's the way the cookie crumbles sometimes.
“Hence the time it has taken for me to establish myself with a new team. Obviously I wasn't talking to anybody else. People will speak to you, but in my mind, in my thoughts, I would have been coming back to Norwich, but it wasn't to be, there was no contract for me to come back to, if that makes sense.
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“Take it from the club's point of view and they pursued their own paths in bringing in their own players and going down their own route. Obviously I understand there had to be some sort of compromise, but the time had passed, it wasn't there and the opportunity wasn't there. There was no option left open from my point of view.
“It's no problem. I understand from a team point of view you have to look after the team. There can't be any hard feelings. I've been in football long enough to know how things operate. It is merely business, it's not personal.”
But it hasn't always been that way for the London-born midfielder, who came through the youth ranks and went on to make more than 100 appearances in his first spell at Carrow Road before leaving for Stoke City in 2003.
Peter Grant brought him back in the summer of 2007, but while his former team-mate was soon replaced by Glenn Roeder as City's fortunes tumbled, Russell's efforts were rewarded when he was named runner-up to Dion Dublin as player of the season.
But then the rot began to set in: with Dublin now retired Roeder's attack was powder puff - Antoine Sibierski, Carl Cort and Arturo Lupoli weren't cutting the mustard, so Roeder pushed Russell up front. A perfectly good midfielder was sacrificed for a half-baked job way out of his comfort zone.
Russell pulls no punches when he assesses his time under Roeder.
“The first season was a good season for me, once I got myself up and running and fit,” he said. “I came second to big Dion in the running for player of the year and from that point of view it was a successful season from a personal point of view.
“I probably embarrassed myself and put detriment to my playing reputation by playing up front, by being played up front and trying to do a job for the team,” he said. “I wouldn't have gone down that route, but two managers felt that would be best for the team and I did what I could do, but I know that it wasn't good enough. From a personal playing point of view it was a terrible season for me and I was in a dilemma at the end of the season in wanting to do that again.
“That for me was a terrible step backwards in terms of trying to progress. I came back to Norwich to progress and under Peter Grant and even Lee Clark and those guys they helped me progress my game, but when you start playing up front you are not able to progress, there is no development from playing in a centre forward role when you are a midfielder and I probably spent 80pc of my season playing up front.
“That year was obviously a waste of time and ended in a huge disappointment with relegation.”
Roeder was long gone by then, with Bryan Gunn in charge. But if Russell was expecting a return to midfield duties, he was mistaken.
Russell had attracted the interest of other clubs, notably Burnley, then newly promoted to the Premier League. Gunn left him out of the party which toured Scotland in pre-season and Russell didn't kick a ball in anger as City prepared for the new campaign.
Burnley made an offer, but it wasn't good enough and was refused as City held out for more. It didn't come, and Russell was a peripheral figure. It was a summer of huge discontent.
“I didn't want to play up front, I wanted to push on and for one reason or another the manager, Bryan Gunn - I respect him as a footballer but as a person obviously I have lost a little bit of respect for the way he dealt with me and treated me, but that's the way he wished to do it.”
What did he want to do?
“I have no idea, to be honest with you. I know that there were bids in from other teams, but I think he was trying to get as much money as he possibly could and obviously messed up a move to Burnley at that point in time and basically left me to rot by training by myself, which was obviously disappointing.
“But I am one of those people who get on with it and obviously the new manager came in and I continued doing what I was doing. I wasn't a bad egg or anything like that, I just got on with what I had to get on with. It was a little disappointing the way I was treated, but everybody has their own ways of dealing with things.”
A fortnight after Paul Lambert's arrival as replacement for the axed Gunn, he had spoken to Russell and the situation was quickly resolved - Russell wouldn't be asked to play up front, but he would be asked to become a defensive midfielder.
“The new manager came in and reintroduced me to the team, and put me in another new role - but it was an educating role for me,” Russell said. “It developed a side of the game I perhaps hadn't been involved in, in terms of the defensive side of things and being the start of many moves in trying to move the ball forward in the team.
“It was a very interesting role and a very educating role for me and I enjoyed that role a lot and it ended up with a very successful season, probably my most successful season in terms of being promoted and winning something. “
Darel Russell II had its ups and its downs. But he insists there are no regrets.
“I came back to try and improve as a player and try and win something. I did improve and I did win something, so if you look at it as a whole it is obviously a successful second period and I can say I was part of the team that won that league and we broke many records that season.
“It was a very successful season for the team as a whole and I am glad to be a part of it. Some say you have to bow out at the top so maybe it was a blessing in disguise. I enjoyed every moment of it, apart from that middle spell where I was stuck playing in a position that was foreign to me to a certain extent and didn't help my development and didn't help the team's development.”
Russell is likely to come face to face with some of his old team-mates next month when City go to Preston, where Darren Ferguson gave him the three-year deal he wanted here.
“I came up and had a watch of one of their games - they played Blackburn, and I spoke to the manager and I don't know whether it is a Scottish thing, but they all seem to have a great enthusiasm for the game and a good driving force and I think I can relate to a lot of that in my own character,” he said.
“After speaking to Darren and feeling that energy it encouraged me to make that decision. Having that enthusiasm and that will to win and that drive is a major thing for me. I might be old-fashioned in that thinking.
“You may not have the resources or you may not have the ability, but if you have the will and the drive to push on it counts for a lot more. There are a lot of people with a lot of ability or a lot of skill but don't have the application and you never actually fulfil your potential in that incidence. From that point of view it's a major driving force for me.
“I wish all the boys I have played with all the best for all of the season. Obviously we came off the back of a fantastic season and it was great to be part of that. There would have been advantages in continuing that, but it was not to be. I think it is a great opportunity for a lot of them who haven't played at that level, it's a new challenge for everybody and it will be an exciting time.
“From the fans' point of view, I don't know whether they are happy to see the back of me or not.
“They might be happy to see the back of me for the second time, but no problem, I enjoyed my time back at Norwich.
“I'm quite sure Norwich will be fine. Paul adapted the team last year to make a winning formula and I am sure he will do the same this season with the players he has. I wish them all the best, all the boys and the team.
“It's difficult season because I think it is a fairly open Championship this year, but I am quite sure there are going to be some good games and some good battles.”