Norwich City keeper John Ruddy goes back to his roots at Cambridge United
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Norwich City's England international John Ruddy goes back to where it all began on Friday when the Canaries' step up their pre-season preparations at League Two Cambridge United (KO 7:30pm).
Ruddy will be part of a large travelling squad contesting four quarters of 30-minutes duration at the R Costings Abbey Stadium in their first friendly against league opposition this summer after scoring 17 goals against Gorleston and Hitchin.
The 28-year-old has been back to open his first club's youth development centre, named in his honour, and the City number one is indebted to the formative role they played in a career which has seen him return to the Premier League this season.
'It's the place where I started and they gave me my chance in football so I'm very grateful for everything the club has done for me,' he said. 'They took a gamble on a 14-year-old who'd never really played in goal and helped me develop into a Premier League goalkeeper.
'I only spent one season playing in the first team but had my educational development around the stadium.
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'We used to go there to get changed before training, and I'll be forever grateful for the opportunity the club gave me. It's a place that will always hold a special place in my heart. When I saw the pre-season fixtures it was one I was immediately looking forward to. I went down to watch them a couple of times last year and they had a really good season, so it will be a good test for us.'
Ruddy has started both friendlies and produced a fine early stop in the first half against Hitchin at Top Field. The former Everton stopper, speaking to the club's site, is enjoying working with former top flight keeper Dean Kiely, who was drafted in by Alex Neil as Tony Parks' replacement last season.
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'It was always going to be difficult to replace someone like Tony Parks, but the club have got a like-for-like in Dean,' he said. 'Since he's come in, he's been top-drawer, not just as a coach but as a person as well. His personality has really shone through, and it's impacted on the whole group rather than just the goalkeepers.
'I've thoroughly enjoyed my time working with him and am really looking forward to pushing on together this season. He was desperate to get back to the Premier League, and felt we had a fantastic opportunity of doing that when he joined.
'That's been proven right, and we're looking forward to becoming established in the Premier League now; it's where he belongs as a coach.'