Just another game’
CHRIS LAKEY It was a little over three years ago that Darren Huckerby swaggered into Carrow Road, and promptly set about making an average Championship outfit into one that was worthy of a place in the Premiership.
It was a little over three years ago that Darren Huckerby swaggered into Carrow Road, and promptly set about making an average Championship outfit into one that was worthy of a place in the Premiership.
He successfully carried the hopes of all Norwich City fans in the second half of that season - and to some extent he's been doing it ever since.
That won't change today when he steps out at Stamford Bridge, although six goals in his last six games and a run of form that would have made Shergar look like a seaside donkey hasn't eased the pressure on the slender shoulders of a player accorded hero status on the Carrow Road terraces.
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Sometimes he's as feisty off the field as he can be on it. It doesn't always take much to set him off - as some of the national sports reporters discovered on Thursday when it was “locals only” as far as interviews go.
Two spectacular strikes against Blackpool on Tuesday were what sent City through to the fifth round and Stamford Bridge, once again underlining just how important he is to the Norwich City team.
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And wasn't it always thus?
“I've felt the same responsibility since I first came on loan, after one game, so it is not something new to me,” he said. “I have been here three and a bit years and it's been the same every game. People expect things of you, so nothing has changed.”
The assumption is that stepping out at Chelsea won't faze him - and it's true. But a shrug of the shoulders gets the message over better than any words, because to Huckerby, there are more important dates on the fixture list - 16 to be precise, starting at Preston on Tuesday and finishing at Sheffield Wednesday in May.
“To be fair, it doesn't really mean much to me to be honest,” he said. “I am going to be honest with you, it just another game because, realistically, while it is a game we can win, it is a very, very tough game and we have got more important things than the FA Cup.
“Let's not beat around the bush, we are five or six points clear of safety and we need to be more than that. It is a big game, it is great for the fans, but realistically we ain't going to win the Cup. Whatever you fellas might say it ain't going to happen. We are going to give it our best shot, but as the last 20 years have proven all the big teams win it.
“I'm looking - but I'd rather be playing in the league this weekend. It is a big game for us, but we probably need to concentrate on the league form. This is just a one-off game for everyone to enjoy - then we get back to the serious stuff.”
Huckerby has done his time in the Premiership, but he believes that such is the domination of the Big Four, even this afternoon's game can't be regarded as a taste of the real high life.
“It is not normal because you don't play against Chelsea every week in the Premiership,” he said. “There are a select few teams who are better than everyone else, your Manchester United, Arsenals and Chelsea, they are much, much better than any other team in the Premier League. So it is not a real taste of Premiership football. The real Premiership football is against the Fulhams and the Wigans. They are the teams you have a chance against.
“It's just the way football is nowadays. Everyone is trying to do it - if someone came and tried to buy Norwich for silly amounts of money the fans would be loving it because it means you can go and buy more players.”
With that, Huckerby was off to the dressing rooms at Colney, with a glint in his eye and one passing shot - “remember, the glory of the FA Cup.”
What could he have meant?