Norwich City keeper John Ruddy has no regrets over Everton experience
John Ruddy insists he has no regrets his Everton career never worked out ahead of today's Premier League Carrow Road reunion.
The 25-year-old was outstanding in Norwich's early season trip to a club where Ruddy made just one substitute appearance in a five year stint following his big move from Cambridge United as a teenager. The Canaries' impressive stopper had eight loan spells away from Goodison Park before finally making a permanent home in Norfolk. Ruddy is adamant those formative experiences have helped establish him now as one of the brightest goalkeeping talents in the country.
'It was massive, going to a massive club with high expectations at an early age,' he said. 'It was a big learning curve for me and the quality of training I had was right up there, Woodsy (Chris Woods) being the coach and working with goalkeepers such as Nigel Martyn, Richard Wright, Tim Howard and Iain Turner.
'It was fantastic for me and I really enjoyed my time there. I'll never have a bad word to say about the club because they took a chance on me. Unfortunately it didn't work out like we wanted to, but that's football and you move on to different things. I don't think any of us are looking back at it now.'
Former Norwich keeper Woods was the latest in a long line of admirers earlier this week to praise Ruddy's achievements, but the St Ives man's prior experiences on Merseyside ensure he retains a sense of perspective.
'It is nice as a keeper. You can either be the hero or the villain,' he said. 'At the moment people are saying good things about me, which is always nice, but you've got to detach yourself from that and make sure they keep saying good things about you. That's the main aim.
'I know Woodsy well, he was a key part of my development as a goalkeeper at Everton. I'm very grateful for what he did for me when I was up there. He's a top coach and was a top player in his time as well with Norwich and England. I appreciate the comments that he made, but I hope we get three points against him.'
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Ruddy believes City did more than enough to merit the win at Goodison Park in December before Leon Osman's deflected strike cancelled out Grant Holt's fine individual effort.
'I think they got a bit fortunate with the equaliser up there but they're a quality outfit,' said Ruddy. 'I think we weathered the storm quite well up there, we were probably deserving of a clean sheet although they did throw a lot at us.
'But we dealt with it and we put in a solid performance and we nicked a goal. We defended it very well until probably their weakest strike of the day. I think they'd agree with that. But that's what you're up against. People can turn games on their head in an instant.
'Everyone who has watched the Premier League for the last four, five or six years knows that they don't start well but they always finish very, very strongly. They're in the middle of a fantastic run now. They've got an FA Cup semi-final to look forward to as well which is great for them and the supporters.'
Ruddy knows David Moyes well enough to forecast all thoughts of next weelend's Merseyside derby at Wembley will be placed firmly on the backburner.
'They're on a great run at the moment, so they want to keep that going,' he said. 'None of the players, nor the manager, will be getting carried away with the semi-final. That will come when it comes. They've got two games before that. I imagine they're more determined to pick up six points over this Easter period if they can and go into the semi-final on an even bigger high. They're on a good run and that can only stand them in good stead for the semi-final when it comes.
'They're a quality act all over the pitch and Tim (Howard's) a quality goalkeeper. He's proved for four or five years at the top level that he can do it and the defence they've got as well, the options they've got, speaks volumes for them as a squad and what David Moyes has done and the players he's brought in.'
City's Easter tussles with Everton and then Tottenham trigger a daunting finale to the Premier League campaign that also includes tests against the likes of Arsenal and Manchester City.
'We looked at the start of the season and we saw our run-in so we knew it was going to be tough,' said Ruddy. 'That's why the amount of effort we've put in up to this point in the season has paid off. We're on 39 points. We've got seven very tough games but I'm sure if we can pick up a couple of points along the way we'll be fine.
'I certainly can't see us losing seven games in a row, so I'm sure we'll pick something up somewhere.
'I thought we played really well (at Fulham), we moved the ball well. Certainly from 15 minutes onwards we cause them a lot of problems. But if you start like that in this league you'll get punished and we did. It was a great effort to try to get back into the game but unfortunately we couldn't get that other goal.'
Skipper Holt returns to the squad this afternoon after missing the Craven Cottage defeat through suspension.
'Yes, he's a massive player, a key figure and the club captain and a big personality around the place,' said Ruddy. 'He gets you goals – 12 in the Premier League speaks for itself - the second-highest English goalscoring forward in the league.
'Why he's been overlooked (for England), who knows? But that's not for me to discuss. He's a quality player. At Everton he got a goal out of nothing, really, so it just shows what he's about and what he can do.'
City's loss at Fulham was also notable for an encouraging first senior appearance from January window signing Ryan Bennett.
'I thought he was exceptional,' said Ruddy. 'He bedded in really well, looked confident and looked like he'd been playing there for the majority of the season.
'It's a credit to him and to us as a group of lads as to how he settled in and I hope he can continue that form to the end of the season.'