Whitbread back and ready to fight

Chris Lakey Zak Whitbread is looking forward to a fresh start after consigning last season to the rubbish bin.The central defender started just one match for City - at home to Stockport in April - after joining from Millwall in January, but the injury problems that plagued him appear to be history, leaving the 26-year-old free to compete for a starting place.

Chris Lakey

Zak Whitbread is looking forward to a fresh start after consigning last season to the rubbish bin.

The central defender started just one match for City - at home to Stockport in April - after joining from Millwall in January, but the injury problems that plagued him appear to be history, leaving the 26-year-old free to compete for a starting place.

“It was a bit of a write-off last season, which was disappointing,” he said after playing the second half at Dereham on Saturday. “It always is, not to play, but I've gone away over the summer, got myself into decent shape to compete this season and in pre-season, hopefully.


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“The main aim is just to stay fit over the next few weeks until the start of the season and to be competing on the first day of the season for a starting place.”

Whitbread's presence will be almost as good as a new signing given his enforced absence - and he's seen at first hand what Paul Lambert's summer transfer activity has done to the squad.

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“It's good for the team, good for the lads to keep you on your toes,” he said. “Without competition sometimes you can maybe take your foot off the pedal. It's great. We've brought in some quality players - everything to strive to get Norwich forward and into the Premier League, so the more good players come in, the better. You can tell there's a hunger between the squad now in pre-season.

“In the first week there's already been a great tempo and a good work ethic between all of us. Come the season, whoever starts in the first XI, that can always chop and change. It's a squad game, not just the first XI, so all the lads have to be ready and waiting for the opportunity.”

Whitbread played alongside the impressive George Francomb at Aldiss Park, although the youngster is more likely to be competing for the right-back berth.

“I think he's very capable of playing there, but whoever's next to me I'll always try to talk and communicate,” said Whitbread. “It works vice-versa. The more the two of you talk between each other, even if you're just talking nonsense, I think it's better than not saying anything at all.

“He did very well there. I think he'd admit himself he's first off a right-back, but it's great to have that feather in his cap, where he can play in different positions.

“It was very hot, but it was good to see the lads getting their workout and knowing you've got 45 minutes in that heat. It was good to finally get out there. No matter what games you play in training, it's always a bit different to playing against opposition, 11-a-side, no matter who.

“They've come out and given us a good test. They worked hard, they weren't silly about anything, they played football at times and had chances so great credit to them. It was a good workout for us.

“It was difficult conditions. It could turn out like that on the first day of the season but you've got to deal with it. It was the same for both sides, so you can't complain too much. I'll be going home and getting an ice-cold bath, so don't worry about that.”

Whitbread got a view of new keeper John Ruddy from the bench in the first half, but has been impressed with the former Everton man.

“He's been brilliant,” he said. “He's come from Everton so he's come from a great club. He has great size, great stature. I didn't play with him today, but watching from the sidelines he has great communication, made some great saves and he's going to be a great person to have about the place. I think he'll do really well. He's got everything - the making to be a top goalkeeper.”

Both will be in Germany this week for City's private training camp - and Whitbread is expecting a tough time.

“We've been told it will be very hard work during the day and very boring at night,” he said.

“They said you can take some laptops and DVD players, but whether you'll be able to open them up and actually hold them is a different question because you'll be that tired, so we've heard some daunting things about it.

“But that's part and parcel of pre-season. It's nice to go away and get the hard work done and hopefully come back in much better shape.”

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