Shackell ready for new season
Jason Shackell has declared himself fit and ready to put a frustrating year behind him and book a regular place in the Norwich City starting line-up.The 22-year-old defender was limited to 19 first-team appearances for the Canaries last season, largely because of an ankle injury he suffered in a reserve match against Watford in October, which kept him out of the senior reckoning for three months.
Jason Shackell has declared himself fit and ready to put a frustrating year behind him and book a regular place in the Norwich City starting line-up.
The 22-year-old defender was limited to 19 first-team appearances for the Canaries last season, largely because of an ankle injury he suffered in a reserve match against Watford in October, which kept him out of the senior reckoning for three months.
After winning back his place in Nigel Worthington's first-choice line-up in March, Shackell missed the final match of the campaign, at home to Wolves, in order to have a tidying up operation on the same ankle and get a head start with his summer recovery programme.
And, with City set for their first full training session at Colney today, the Stevenage-born centre half already has his sights on a place in the starting line-up for the opening Coca-Cola Championship match at Leeds on August 5.
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He said: “Touch wood, everything's fine since the operation. I've come back and I'm feeling good.
“I don't want to say it's perfect. I don't want to tempt fate, but it's feeling good at the moment and hopefully I will have a good pre-season.
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“It was a case of in and out last season. It was my first major injury and it was frustrating being out for a good few months, but it's part and parcel of the game. These things are going to come round sometimes. You just have to deal with it and move on. Hopefully, it's done and dusted and behind me now.”
Surgery did not delay Shackell's summer training schedule unduly, as he explained: “It was a fairly simple operation. They went inside and had a look around. I was fine, walking about literally the next day and I just took it easy for a couple of weeks and then slowly built up, ready to come back.
“I did the same programme as the rest of the boys, starting a couple of weeks after the operation, which was just running and weights and building my strength up in the ankle.”
Now he's determined to add to the 39 senior appearances he has made for City since his senior debut at Derby as a 19-year-old in April 2003.
Shackell played six times in the Canaries' Nationwide League title-winning campaign in 2003-04 and earned praise for his performances alongside Craig Fleming at centre-half in the final 11 matches of the subsequent Premiership season, despite the bitter blow of relegation.
With last season's player of the year, Gary Doherty, now an established figure in defence and 34-year-old Fleming declaring himself “fitter than ever” for the battles ahead, Shackell knows there will be competition for his preferred role, but his target is a regular place on the teamsheet.
He said: “That's always the aim. You can't take anything for granted. I just have to get my head down and work on my fitness, make sure I'm fit and working hard over pre-season and hopefully, when the season comes, I get picked. That's the aim - to be in the team for the first game. But there's a lot of hard work to come before that.
“Our aim is to get promoted. We know we've got a lot of good players here but this is a really tough league now. There are some really good teams - the three that came down last season, Birmingham, West Brom and Sunderland, and the teams that just missed out on promotion, Leeds, Preston and Palace, are not the only ones.
“It's going to be a tough, long, hard season. We've got Leeds and Preston first but we're looking forward to it. We've just got to knuckle down and make sure we're ready for the start of it at three o'clock against Leeds.”