Malky relishes Carrow Road return

CHRIS WISE Malky Mackay is steeling himself for an emotional return as he prepares to make his first Carrow Road appearance since being shown the door by the Canaries.


Malky Mackay is steeling himself for an emotional return as he prepares to make his first Carrow Road appearance since being shown the door by the Canaries.

The 33-year-old defender is currently flying high with the Championship's surprise package Watford, who are six places and 10 points better off than City going into Saturday's crunch encounter.

That will be a big game for everyone involved - but it promises to be an especially memorable one for a man who spent six happy years with Norwich before being surprisingly sold by manager Nigel Worthington at the start of the club's Premiership campaign.

Mackay hasn't stepped on to the hallowed turf since the triumphant lap of honour that followed City's final home game of the title-winning 2003-4 season. And he can't wait to get back out there at the weekend to pay his respects to the home fans - before getting down to the serious business of trying to help his side take another big step towards the play-offs.

“It's my first time back at Carrow Road since I left the club - and it will certainly seem strange walking past the home dressing room to get to the away one!” said the big Scot.

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“I have got some great memories of my time at Norwich and have got a lot of friends there so it goes without saying that it is a game I am really looking forward to.

“I have had a couple of calls from Norfolk about tickets already - and I am just hoping the other lads let me have some of theirs because otherwise I won't be able to satisfy the demand!

“It will be the first time I have been on the pitch at Carrow Road since the lap of honour which followed the final home game of our promotion season. I'll be concentrating on doing well for Watford, don't worry about that, but it will be an emotional occasion when I run out there again.

“I never had a chance to say a proper farewell to the supporters after I was sold so it will be good to see them all again. “They were always fantastic to me when I was at Norwich - we always had a great rapport.

“They gave me a great reception when Norwich played West Ham the FA Cup last season and they did it again at Vicarage Road back in September. The way the fans greeted me in those two games meant a lot to me and now I am looking forward to applauding them on Saturday, even though I'll be doing my best to spoil their day!”

Mackay has been a big hit at Vicarage Road since moving there at the start of the season in a move from newly promoted West Ham which mirrored his switch from Norwich a year earlier. Brought in to add a touch of experience to a predominately young squad, the former City favourite has done all that has been asked of him and more - with surprise packages Watford proving to be far more than a flash in the pan under one-time Canary youth team coach Adrian Boothroyd.

“At the start of the season a lot of people nationally were tipping Watford for relegation but the boss has done a tremendous job and shown exactly why the board hired him in the first place,” he said. “He has changed the squad around, got everyone working hard in training and out on the pitch - and that's why we have done well so far.

“At one point we had all of our main three forwards out - Marlon King, Ashley Young and Darius Henderson - and we did struggle at bit for a time. But once they returned things got back to normal again.

“The bubble has never burst and we are in an extremely good position going into Saturday's game. We are up there on merit - and now we have got to make sure we stay there.

“We can't take anything for granted, because if we slip then there will be a side who will come with a late run and all of a sudden we will be under pressure again. It's going to be tight all the way in - and hopefully we can do it.

“It's nip and tuck at the top at the moment. There are maybe 10 or 12 teams who could reach the play-offs. Even teams who are some way off the pace could make it - you only have to look at Norwich to know that. They win five games on the spin - and all of a sudden they are right up there challenging.

“If both us and Norwich could reach the play-offs that would be great. One thing is for sure - both clubs have got the quality to finish in the top six.”

Norwich were some way short of their best when they slipped to a disappointing 2-1 defeat at Watford earlier in the season - but Mackay is expecting his former club to be an entirely different proposition on Saturday.

“It's going to be a tough game for us, there is no doubt about that,” said the towering defender, who is well aware of the threat likely to be posed by City's current first choice strike-force of Darren Huckerby, Dean Ashton and Paul McVeigh.

“Norwich have got a lot of quality in their squad and it was only a matter of time before everything clicked and they started moving up the table.

“I expect to be kept busy because they have got a good front three, that's for sure. I know Hucks and Paul from my time at Norwich and both can be a real handful for the opposition. Hucks can turn matches and he is a big, big danger while I rate Paul as one of the best players in this division. He has been given his chance again and has grabbed it with both hands and I am delighted for him.

“I have never played alongside Dean Ashton, but I have played against him plenty of times while he was at Crewe and he will be a handful as well, that's for sure, so it should be an interested afternoon.”

City now have around 1000 tickets available for general sale for Saturday's game after Watford failed to sell their full allocation. For latest details on availability contact the club on 0870 4441902.