Russell relishes return to old club

Former Norwich City favourite Darel Russell returns to Carrow Road today hoping for a good reception from the home fans.

Former Norwich City favourite Darel Russell returns to Carrow Road today hoping for a good reception from the home fans.

Russell, 25, left Norwich in the summer of 2003 for Stoke and is expected to line up in their midfield.

"Hopefully it will be a nice reception," he said. "I think there are no hard feelings when I left so hopefully I will not get a bad reception. I obviously had some very good memories from my time at the club, but it's perhaps only once you've left you appreciate them more. When you have time away from a club you tend to look back on it in a different way.

"You have the chance to see it from a different perspective. It was a nice club to play for and I have no regrets about my time there."

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In the summer of 2003 City had just finished eighth in the Championship and Russell had been offered a new contract. But he chose not to sign it.

He was put on a week-by-week deal to protect the club from losing him on a free transfer - and a week before the start of the new season left for Stoke for a fee of £125,000.

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While the guarantee of first-team football is the reason given by many players for moving on, Russell said his departure was more down to securing a better deal.

"I don't think it was so much to guarantee myself first-team football," he said. "It was more about my contract situation. That was the real problem I had. Obviously, I had to look at what was offered and see if it was right for myself."

Russell, who looks set to replace the suspended Dave Brammer in the centre of midfield, is looking forward to his second appearance at Carrow Road since his departure.

"It will be nice if I'm back in the team against my old club," he said.

"I missed the 3-1 win over Norwich earlier in the season, which was definitely one of the better performances by the lads. I played them in my first season here, drawing at home and losing there.

"I had a decent reception last time and I'll be hoping for the same because I never left there on bad terms, but you never know with fans because they can change their colours quickly. The infrastructure has changed there a bit with the building of a new stand and that, but there's still six or seven players still there from my time."

One of them is goalkeeper Robert Green, who was first called into the England squad the weekend when Stoke were last at Carrow Road two years ago.

"It would be nice to put one past him," said Russell. "He's a great keeper with a big future ahead of himself and he's done really well to get into the England squad.

"He's one of the best I've trained against and I see no reason why he shouldn't be going to the World Cup with England this summer.

"His selection also opens up the possibility of other Championship players like Andy Johnson enjoying the same treatment. It's nice to know you can be seen in this division."

Russell might have enjoyed a grander stage himself had he stayed with Norwich - but his move came at the start of the season that was to see them charge into the top flight.

"I felt like you missed the boat a bit and could have been playing regularly in the Premiership," he reflects. "But that's gone now and you have to strive for the same goals with the club you are with now."

The Premiership has long gone for Norwich too, of course, and the natives appear to be growing increasingly restless, with last week's 4-1 walloping at Crystal Palace the final straw for many.

"It's obviously a difficult time for the manager," said Russell.

"They've got a couple of good players on paper in what is almost virtually a new team. If they get themselves settled then I'm sure they can do something next season. It's maybe come too late for them this season."

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