Grant factor key to Russell's return

CHRIS LAKEY Darel Russell donned the yellow and green colours of Norwich City for the first time in four years yesterday - and said it was the presence of former team-mate and now manager Peter Grant which made his decision to return a "no brainer".


Darel Russell donned the yellow and green colours of Norwich City for the first time in four years yesterday - and said it was the presence of former team-mate and now manager Peter Grant which made his decision to return a "no brainer".

Russell played alongside Grant in the late 90s - Russell in his formative years and Grant in the twilight of his career. And it was those few games together which, years later, made Grant's move to bring the player back from Stoke City pretty much a formality.

"It started about a week and a half ago," said Russell after training with his new team-mates before the formalities of the annual team photo-shoot yesterday.

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"There was obviously a lot of talk and bits and pieces because the clubs have to come to agreement. But it was a no brainer for me coming back this side of the country to a great club with great facilities. The training ground is fantastic so you have no excuses when you go out there and work each day. For me it was brilliant."

But the fact that his former mentor was at the other end of the line was the real selling point.

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"I learnt probably the most I have learned in football in the first 11 games alongside Pete," added Russell, who would have been eligible to leave Stoke on a Bosman free transfer next summer. "He is a big talker, a very good pro. I remember all those things - he helped me along as a young kid and after speaking to him again, it's a great thing for me to play in a team that is managed by a centre midfielder.

"Hopefully his playing and training is based around that thought pattern and I am really excited to be working with him again. I know he is a good pro and I am quite sure he will be a good manager.

"A major point is that Peter Grant was a central midfield player as I am and from that point of view he can pass on knowledge that I have missed out on - he can help me on that side of things. It is a great learning experience for me again."

Russell believes Grant is one of a new breed of managers who are using an ever-strengthening Championship in which to learn their trade.

"He has different ideas, he is one of these new, young, enthusiastic managers that are now entering the game - we have the Roy Keanes, the Adi Boothroyds," he said.

"I keep saying the Championship this year is so strong. I say it is as good as the Premiership was probably 10 years ago. It is that good, there are players playing down here like you would never expect, like Robbie Fowler, Lee Hendrie, possibly James Beattie, it is a great division.

"The lads here look sharp, they look good and look like they are capable of playing and matching these players."

Stoke manager Tony Pulis revealed one of the reasons for Russell's decision to leave Stoke - a club who also lost Luke Chadwick to Norwich at the start of the year.

"We would like to thank Darel for his services to the club during the past four years - at the end of the day, he wasn't settled in the area and made it clear that he wanted to leave to return closer to home," said Pulis.

Russell added: "It was difficult - even this morning I was almost feeling a guilt in leaving, I don't know why. I am a big team player so it was difficult because I usually consider everybody else a lot of times and the decision to come here was probably the first time I had made a decision for myself in football.

"It was kind of a selfish decision in a sense, for my own reasons, but I have done it now and I look forward to working with this new team.

"I am a lot stronger, a lot more experienced now. When I look back to when I was playing at 17 or 18 I look back and wonder how the hell I was in a team at that age.

"I look back and I think I wasn't ready, but you gain a lot of experience and a lot of knowledge in the game and you improve and I feel now that I am coming to my supposedly peak years.

"I am feeling better and adding these goals and playing in a team that really like to play football - I look forward to that. I really want to be able to continue with the scoring part. Last year those goals brought me recognition as the Championship player of the month in November. It was brilliant and I hope I can achieve those kind of heights again here."

Russell becomes Grant's eighth summer signing after the arrivals of Jon Otsemobor, Matthew Gilks, Jamie Cureton, David Marshall, David Strihavka, Jimmy Smith (loan) and Julien Brellier.

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