Where Eagle dares
Robert Eagle is hoping to crown a notable week with a return to senior action during Norwich City's Easter programme.The 20-year-old left-winger has not made a first-team appearance for four months, but the Canaries' persistent injury worries and manager Peter Grant's willingness to blood his younger players could give him another opportunity over the next four days.
Robert Eagle is hoping to crown a notable week with a return to senior action during Norwich City's Easter programme.
The 20-year-old left-winger has not made a first-team appearance for four months, but the Canaries' persistent injury worries and manager Peter Grant's willingness to blood his younger players could give him another opportunity over the next four days.
Eagle, who was on the bench for City at Colchester last Saturday and signed a new one-year deal with the club on Monday, will be in the squad again for tomorrow's Coca-Cola Championship match against Hull City at the KC Stadium (3pm).
The last time he figured in the starting line-up was the home game against Hull in late November, but the rematch with the Tigers and Monday's visit of promotion-chasing West Bromwich Albion could give him another chance to impress in his first season as a professional, which has already exceeded his expectations.
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He said: “I hope to get a few more run-outs towards the end of the season. When I've come in, I think I've done all right. I wouldn't say I've done brilliantly but I've done a job, so hopefully next year I'll do a better job. I've had a decent year, so I hope I can push on and get a few more starts - start as many games as I can and maybe get a few goals.
“I thought I might get one or two games but to have had three starts and another six appearances as a substitute, I've done better than I thought I would.
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“It was hard. The tempo is harder, faster, but you just adapt to what you're playing against.”
Eagle, whose boyhood hero was Steve McManaman - “I was a big Liverpool fan and I still am” - said he had benefited from the advice of left-sided specialists Darren Huckerby and Simon Lappin, but had areas of his game he was keen to improve.
“I have learned off the ones who are playing in my position like Hucks and Simon,” he said.
“I'd also like to work at my shooting. My long-range shooting isn't the greatest. I have to work on my right foot, too.
“I'm quite a small lad going into this league. The physical side is a lot stronger so I've been in the gym nearly every day trying to get bigger and put on a little more weight.”
With strikers Chris Martin and Kris Renton forcing their way into the first-team picture, Eagle is hoping he too can get a slice of the action in the seven remaining games.
“It's only good for the club for young players to come through and good for the fans to see there are good youngsters coming up,” he said.
Grant said Eagle's lack of action - his last brief appearance was as a substitute at Sunderland in December - was not down to any lack of ability.
He said: “Robert's been unfortunate. Sometimes players are not in the side because of other people's performances. I just think Lappin gave us a little bit more help on the left-hand side, both defensively and attacking.
“When young Robert's played, I think he's done very well. I've watched him at reserve games and he's been excellent. His attitude to training and, even when he travels in the 18 and has not been selected in the 16, is first-class. He goes round the players like an old pro, wishing them all the best. All these wee things are massive as a footballer. His attitude every single day is fantastic, 100 per cent and he deserves his contract. I just hope he goes on and has a career here.
“If he doesn't, as a left-sided player with the ability he has, I'm sure he'll make a career somewhere.
“He's been very unfortunate. There are times when he's not played because of the balance I wanted on the bench or because the two boys in front of him, Huckerby and Lappin, have been playing well.”
Grant, who played in the same City side as wide left players such as Darren Eadie and Keith O'Neill, said: “I saw Robert in the first reserve game when I came here and I thought, mmm, a natural left-sider, we don't have that. Probably apart from one game, he's had an effect in every game he's played.
“He's got better delivery than Darren Eadie. He's not as quick as Darren but, as I think we saw in the Leicester game, he puts great crosses in, his delivery from set plays is good, and he has good balance.
“We played him in the reserve game at left-back on Monday so he gets time on the ball and his delivery into the front men was excellent. Some of his passes in the first half were very difficult, but he got a couple of wonderful passes down the line, dropping them over the full-back's head, so he's got a little bit of a mixture to his game.
“On his performances and what he's done since I've been here, he's deserved his contract.”
Grant must wait on the fitness of skipper Adam Drury and veteran Dion Dublin, both with ankle injuries, and will definitely be without Luke Chadwick, Jürgen Colin and Chris Brown. Drury was back in training on Tuesday.
“He's recovered quicker than we thought because he had a minor operation last week, so we're very pleased,” said Grant.
“Dion is struggling a little bit because he turned his ankle at Colchester. Also we thought he'd broken his toe but thankfully that's been clear.
“Chadwick's had a bit of a blow. We think he's torn a muscle in his thigh.”
Colin has a groin strain, while striker Peter Thorne's persistent thigh injury may sideline him for the rest of the campaign.
“We'll be lucky to see him before the end of the season,” said Grant.
Hull, 4-0 winners over Southend last Saturday, are hoping for a triple boost with injured trio David Livermore (ankle), Nick Barmby (calf) and Stephen McPhee (hamstring) all hoping to be part of manager Phil Brown's plans.