Russell hoping for warm welcome

Darel Russell and Luke Chadwick were both on target the last time Norwich City played at Stoke - but Russell is hoping the boot is on the other foot this afternoon.

By CHRIS LAKEY

Darel Russell and Luke Chadwick were both on target the last time Norwich City played at Stoke - but Russell is hoping the boot is on the other foot this afternoon.

The Canaries midfielders scored late on as Stoke cruised to a 5-0 victory, as the hosts took advantage of the red card shown to City keeper Jamie Ashdown.

Within a month Chadwick had arrived at Norwich on loan - and Russell followed in the summer, returning to the club he had left for the Potters four years previously.

The incentive for both players is obvious.

“It will be a big game for myself going back to the Britannia and I would love to put a good performance in,” said Russell.

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Football fans are a notoriously fickle bunch and, despite 182 games for Stoke, he is by no means guaranteed a warm welcome.

“I hope it's good,” he added. “I gave them good service, but you never know with fans. It can be one tackle and that's it, they will be on my back for the rest of the game.

“We just hope it's good, but it doesn't matter either way to me. I just want to go out there and perform well and have a good game and get a result.”

The Stoke team is very different to the 2006 vintage, but Russell knows enough about the remaining players - and manager Tony Pulis - to hold some valuable information.

“They have done well and it will be a tough game,” he said. “Tony Pulis likes a strong, tight game at the back.

“They like to shut up shop in a sense and not concede goals - I think you will find they won't concede many goals in a season, so really we need to grind them down as much as we possibly can, find that opening, get the goal and I think we should be ok if we can get a goal there.

“Hopefully I can impart some of my knowledge of the Stoke team on the lads and hopefully we can use that to our advantage and get a good result.”

Pulis, who bought Russell during his first spell as Stoke boss and sold him in his second, hailed the 27-year-old as one of his best-ever signings at the Britannia.

“When I look back on all the transfers with Stoke over the years, I'd have to put Darel up there with the best of them in terms of cost and service,” said Pulis.

“He never came up short for you, whatever you asked of him, so I always had the utmost respect for both Darel and the fine family he came from.”

“That's most definitely a compliment,” said Russell. “He gave me a lot of confidence and hopefully I gave a lot back in return. I certainly thoroughly enjoyed playing for him. I always say I played for three different managers at Stoke because Tony Pulis came back a better manager the second time and has gone on to show it.

“I just hope he can get Salif Diao back to Stoke. He's probably the best centre midfield partner I've ever had because he brought the best out of me.”