Old enemy help Norwich City get ready for big test
Ricky Martin admits he will owe a debt of gratitude to City's big rivals from down the A140 if the Canaries progress in the FA Youth Cup tonight.
Martin's young guns travel to face Premier League Fulham at Craven Cottage (7pm) with a place in the fifth round on offer.
The young Canaries haven't played a league game since a 5-1 defeat at Chelsea in the final game of 2010, but a hastily-arranged friendly against Ipswich helped brush off some of the cobwebs. It also saw a goal-scoring return for striker Jack Werndly, who has been out since October with a broken collarbone.
'He played on Saturday and was back on the scoresheet,' said Academy boss Martin. 'Jack came in just after pre-season, made a big impact, got into the team, was scoring goals, helped us to the top of the league and then picked up an injury against Portsmouth. He has been out for the last nine games and we have missed him.
'He is quite a robust lad, he leads the line very well and looks to hold it up, but he is also a goal scorer. He has done really well, had a good impact and we will be hoping he finds his feet quickly from his injury and his rehab.
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'It's great to have him back. We were meant to play Fulham last week. They called the game off, that left us without a game, but we weren't going to have the weekend off so we arranged a friendly against Ipswich – not that you can have a friendly against Ipswich. It was a really competitive game and just what we needed.
'I would like to thank Ipswich for coming down and enabling us to prepare for this week's game.'
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Having seen off Charlton in the third round – thanks to skipper Matt Ball's goal and a last-minute penalty save by Jed Steer – City will be hoping for more capital gains against a side they beat 2-1 in the league in October.
'Fulham will be a really tough game, but it is a game we can win and that is the message we will be getting to the lads,' said Martin. 'We are in a win-win situation – we are a Championship club and we have a smaller Academy than Fulham.
'From a recruitment point of view they will spend more than us, but that doesn't mean that they have got better players than us. We have some very talented players and we are very confident our players, should they gel and click and be clinical in the final third, have every opportunity to progress.'
It will be the second examination of the day for City's young full-backs, Harry Tofilo and Harry Barker – both 15-year-olds have GCSE exams early this morning.
• City squad: Steer, Barker, Jones, Gordon, Tofolo, Ball, Dobbs, Brindley, Oakley, Werndley, Kelly, Matthews, Clunan, Florence, Stephens, Loza, Hall-Johnson.