Michael Bailey talks past, present and future with John Ruddy following his Norwich City swansong at Carrow Road, signing off on his seven year Canaries stint in style
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Norwich City wasn't just a phase of John Ruddy's life – it was a living, breathing part of it.
Through rough and smooth, up and down, the Canaries had a number one that was part of the furniture in a side that finished respectably in the Premier League and never lower than the Championship eighth they managed this term. And that should have been higher.
City will miss Ruddy. Its extent will all depend on who takes primacy between the sticks through next season.
But from the spine-tingling ovation of all inside Carrow Road to the finger-tip save to deny Pawel Wszolek – and of course, taking on a couple of QPR players well outside his area to the joy of the Barclay – it was the perfect send-off for a keeper who will be fondly remembered in Norfolk.
'I can't put that into words,' said Ruddy, on where Norwich will stand in his career.
'The opportunity the club gave me seven years ago when Paul Lambert brought me for £250,000, which doesn't seem much in this day and age – you'd have never dreamt it would go this well.
'Obviously we've had our ups and downs but I think there have been far more highs than lows, and I feel very proud to be part of arguably the most successful period of the club's modern history.
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'It will always hold a special place in my heart – not just the club but the area as well. My daughter was born here, my son grew up here and it's somewhere we'll probably come back to when I've finished playing, like many former players do.'
The occasion was naturally littered with tributes: captain for the day, children by his side as he led out the Canaries for his final dance. He even picked up the sponsors' man of the match award, which was a feat given his limited action.
'I managed to hold the tears back; I felt one coming out and I sucked it straight back up,' said Ruddy. 'I've worn the armband before but we lost 4-2, so this was nicer. It was massive. Russ (Martin) text me during the week and said he'd like me to do it. I was a bit reluctant, to be honest. I didn't want to turn it into a bit of a carnival atmosphere. But Russ was adamant and Alan (Irvine) was more than happy to agree.
'I can't place on record my thanks to Russ enough for that. Being here for as long as we both have, for him to make that gesture was superb and shows what kind of guy he is.
'Being able to walk out with my children and share it with them, it was really special. Norwich City is all they've known in football terms. Jack has been ball-boy for the last couple of years. He's almost as tall as me already. He's got size 8.5 feet and he's nine years old. It's scary!
'It was really special and it just added to the occasion.'
Ruddy found out his fate on Tuesday, yet admitted the writing had probably been on the wall for some time.
'I've had a feeling for a while,' added Ruddy. 'Certainly when Alex (Neil) was here I had a feeling I'd be on my way and even after that, with the direction the club were saying they're going and the rebuilding process, it was clear they were going to have to free-up something and the players out of contract were the easy targets, if you like.
'The club said they wouldn't stand in my way of leaving and didn't want to disrespect me (by offering a pay cut).
'If I was 36 or 37 then I would've done that in a heartbeat. But I've got 10 years left in me, I think. I'm in the best shape I've been in for a long time, my body weight is as low as it's been since I've been here. So I'm working hard to prepare right for the next 10 years.
'But this club means a lot to me and it's given me everything I could wish for in life, and for that I'll be eternally gratefully.'
So what will the next chapter be? Nothing is sorted yet: 'It's all up in the air. Seasons are still going on. Until clubs have a chance to reassess their squads, you don't know what's going to happen.
'I think I'm in a good position, I'm 30 years old, nearly 400 league games, feeling healthy. So the opportunities will come in I hope.
'I haven't even had the chance to sit down and think about what I want. It's a discussion me and my wife have got to have, because it's got to be right for all of us. They're happy to move if they need to but with kids at nine and five, it's schools, areas, new friends. It's all of these factors you have to take into account.
'Once the offers come in we can afford to weigh them up and make the right decision for us.
'But I hope from the bottom of my heart the club does rebuild the way they intend to, bounce back and has the success we've had since I've been here because it's a massive club, it's got a lot of opportunity, a lot of fantastic young players.
'It's about building the squad around them, pushing forward and getting that success.'
That will now be without John Ruddy – but there is nothing better than signing off with Carrow Road's adulation ringing in your ears.
Not everyone gets it. John Ruddy deserved it.