It's men only for the derby

CHRIS LAKEY Birthday boy Dion Dublin will become Norwich City's oldest derby day player in more than 27 years tomorrow when he makes the 700th senior appearance of an illustrious career.

CHRIS LAKEY

Birthday boy Dion Dublin will become Norwich City's oldest derby day player in more than 27 years tomorrow when he makes the 700th senior appearance of an illustrious career.

Dublin is hoping to celebrate his 38th birthday with victory over City's old rivals Ipswich - but will begin the day with words of advice for a history-making player at the other end of his career.

Kris Renton could become the youngest player to represent City in an East Anglian derby clash - but Dublin says there is no room for kid gloves any more, even in the pressure cooker atmosphere of a 25,000 sell-out crowd for high noon at Carrow Road.

“It is going to be a full house and there will be an added pressure,” said Dublin. “Unfortunately, you can't be a young lad now in the game, you have to really grow very quickly.

“You can be a young lad out on the training pitch and learn from people like myself and the manager and Adam Drury and people like that. You can learn from us on the training pitch - when it comes to match day we can't afford to have any kids out there. They have all got to be men and pull the same way.

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“Come Sunday we are not going to have any children in that side, it is all about men and men standing up toe to toe against men in blue.”

City's injury crisis, which saw Renton become the club's youngest ever player last weekend at Leicester, shows few signs of abating - and that means Peter Grant may have to rely on his academy stars for some more teenage kicks tomorrow.

Dublin has been able to cast a wise old eye over them in training and is impressed by what he has seen.

“They have been thrown in, so to speak,” he said. “Chris Martin has done well when he has come in, he's scored a few goals, now Eags (Robert Eagle) is there and Cavey (Andrew Cave-Brown) and there are a few others knocking at the door as well.

“I think it is good for the manager to see them. We are not going to go down, we are not going to win the league so it is a good time for the manager to have a look at these players.”

Dublin will again start in the centre of City's defence - with an ankle injury picked up in Tuesday's defeat at Burnley unlikely to keep him out - and it's from there that he can guide operations and lend the youngsters a helping hand - responsibility that sits easily with a player who counts Manchester United, Aston Villa and Celtic among his former clubs.

“Without sounding too big-headed, I just do what I do, it just seems to come naturally,” he said. “I like to pass on information to the young ones, and I feel they listen and I am hoping that things I am telling Chris Martin, Chris Brown and big Rents are helping them.

“We shall see how they develop - hopefully I can help them develop quicker than they would on their own.”

Dublin will become the oldest City player to face Ipswich since legendary keeper Kevin Keelan, who was 10 days shy of his 29th birthday when he played against the old enemy on Boxing Day, 1979.

But age has not dimmed the enthusiasm or his desire to right a few wrongs - and not all related to City's 3-1 defeat at Portman Road in November.

“Of course, we know what happened last time we played there,” he said. “We didn't play particularly well and now we have to play back at Carrow Road, which is our place and we have to do exactly what they did to us at their place. We need to win the game, for pride, for points and for the fans.

“There is not just a determination to put it right because of the way we played there, there is a determination to put it right because we didn't get really what we deserved against Burnley. We didn't play particularly well, we didn't really deserve to win the game but we didn't deserve to lose it either, not 3-0 anyway, so we need to put that right.

“It is not the Ipswich game we need to put right, it's the Burnley game we need to put right. It is a massive occasion for us, it needs to be a win because we are disappointed from the Burnley game.”