Audio: Norwich City keeper John Ruddy calls for winning Premier League finale
John Ruddy admits achieving Premier League safety affected Norwich City's recent performances – but their Emirates Stadium efforts proved they want to end a memorable campaign on a high.
Four points over Easter all but mathematically secured top-flight football at Carrow Road for 2012-13, following which the Canaries suffered three defeats before heading to north London on Saturday to face an Arsenal side desperate for three points.
City were outstanding in a 3-3 draw with Arsene Wenger's men, after which Ruddy acknowledged achieving their primary goal of the season had taken its toll.
The Norwich goalkeeper said: 'That's the key – although there was never a question mark over the effort we were putting into the games, the collective performance probably wasn't there as it had been all season, because of different circumstances: in tiredness maybe, the mental strain and just everyone having that weight lifted off their shoulders knowing that you're safe. It does things to people.
'And that's going to happen, it's the nature of the game. But we put ourselves in that situation to be able to really enjoy the last five games of the season.
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'We haven't enjoyed the last three, but Arsenal was very enjoyable; we got another point towards our total and if we can finish on an even bigger high in front of our home fans – you've seen them at the Emirates, it was an unbelievable atmosphere – if we can give them a win from the last game of the season to take into next season, then that would be brilliant.'
That final game sees Aston Villa – realistically safe after a nervy finish to their campaign – visit Carrow Road on Sunday, before attention turns to a summer preparing for another mammoth Premier League effort.
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And some City supporters may well hope it includes tightening up a defensive record that has seen Norwich concede more league goals this season than every club outside the Premier League drop zone, with two clean sheets in the process.
At the same time, the Canaries' attacking principles meant Steve Morison's equaliser at Arsenal completed City's half-century of top-flight goals this season – and only the Premier League's top six can boast scoring more.
'We knew it was going to be tough this season and we knew it was going to be tough to keep clean sheets against these teams with the way we play as well; it's not a defence-minded team,' concluded Ruddy.
'To keep two clean sheets is disappointing, but the amount we probably deserved hasn't been reflected by that.
'Next season is all about solidifying us as a team, but if we can finish in the same place next season with no clean sheets then so be it. It doesn't matter how many cleans sheets you get as long as you are in the league.'
While clean sheets have not been critical to City's success this season, Ruddy admitted the statistic may hinder his chances of making Roy Hodgson's England squad for the European Championships this summer – despite a growing clamour for the ex-Everton keeper to be involved.
Of his Three Lions chances, Ruddy said: 'Slim I think – the summer will come around when it comes around, and the new England manager will name his squad when he names it. If I'm in it then it's a fantastic honour. If I'm not then I'll make sure I'm fit for next season.
'Ultimately we are judged on clean sheets as goalkeeper, just like strikers are judged on goals. I've only kept two this year, which although we've deserved more I think it has hindered my chances somewhat.
'If it happens then I'll be absolutely over the moon. But if it doesn't then I've got a wedding to look forward to and then I'll make sure I'm in tip-top shape for next season.'
Before all that Norwich will complete their campaign with Villa's visit, and while there may not be silverware on show like the previous two final�s at Carrow Road, Ruddy is looking forward to showing appreciation for the support of the City fans over the nine-month campaign.
'Following the last two seasons it's got a lot to live up to, so it might be a bit dead...' smiled Ruddy.
'The atmosphere is always special at Carrow Road. It's a sellout every week and the last game of the season is always special for us as players because we get to appreciate what the fans have done for us as well at the end of the game.
'They will be there in their numbers again and supporting us like they have done every game of the season, and hopefully we can give them three points to go away with.'