Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Old Hucks as Best Newbie. Norfolk Still Angry.

Norwich legend Darren Huckerby has been named MLS 'Newcomer of the Year' at 32. Huckerby has put in some excellent work in his new league in the last few months, scoring 6 goals in 14 games from the left wing, but Norwich fans are still irritated at Manager Glenn Roeder's decision to axe Hucks during the summer, and they let the Norwich boss know exactly how they felt at last night's Annual General Meeting.

When Huckerby was shown the Carrow Road exit at the end of last season, many Norwich fans were miffed at Glenn Roeder's decision to shun the most popular footballer the team has had for many years, maybe ever! What also irked the fine people of Norwich was that their hero was not given the send-off that he deserved when Roeder clearly knew that Huckerby was no longer part of his rebuilding plans.

Six months later, with the team sitting 2 points above the relegation zone and Mr. Huckerby back in Norwich last weekend, as a spectator in the Jarrold stand, the Norwich City AGM became the perfect forum for City fans to air their displeasure.

While I am sure that if Huckerby's replacement this season, Wes Hoolahan, had been en fuego for the Canaries, the people of Norwich may have been a little more forgiving with the decision to send their wing-king packing, but he hasn't. Roeder has even dropped Hoolahan from the squad recently, and he's featured in just 9 games this term. While David Bell has been impressive in that position in the last couple of games, Bell arrived as a right winger and it appears that Roeder may have gotten lucky with the Irishman, who's starting to look tasty on the left in Huckerby's old role.

That said, this season's inconsistent performances, tenuous league position and many different line-ups has kept Huckerby fresh in the memory.

Last night's AGM should have been filled with questions regarding the club's financial situation, its on-and-off flirtation with Billionaire Peter Cullum and concerns over the future of a team that sits 19th in the Championship with a home crowd of 25,000 weekly.

Instead, a large portion of the proceedings were taken up with questions from angry supporters bringing Roeder's decision over Huckerby into question.

"It was not an easy decision for me to make. But it was my decision and my decision only. Don't hold anyone else responsible. It was a tough call. I targeted a couple of players in Darren's position - younger players - and I decided to let him go and bring in two others. Football is about opinions. You will never please everyone all the time. We have to move on. The future is now, today and tomorrow. Lets stop living in the past."
- Glenn Roeder last night.
Meanwhile thousands of miles west, Huckerby is gathering hero status with another set of supporters, those of the San Jose Earthquakes. Huckerby's trademark runs have given the Earthquakes fans a new paladin in their first year in MLS.

Huckerby chants can be heard at 'Quakes home games and fan message boards are filled with messages of excitement for next term and a full season of Hucks magic.

Huckerby only played in 14 games this past campaign yet he established himself as a key figure for the 'Quakes, scoring 6 goals and setting up 4. His arrival started a 9-game unbeaten streak which lifted San Jose within touching distance of the play-offs for a short while. Huckerby's performances have been noticed across the league resulting in Huckerby being essentially named 'Rookie of the Year'.

An ironic accolade for a player who is 32 years old and a veteran of the game. He also appears to have settled down well in his new part-time home of San Jose as he told me back in September. Other notable awards Mr Huckerby can place on his Norfolk mantle include San Jose's MVP, Earthquakes golden boot winner and MLS Player of the Month for September. Quite an achievement to be named a team's 'player of the year' after only 14 games!
"Darren had phenomenal run for us right from his arrival to the team. He brought an attacking mentality to our team that helped spark us on our run for the playoffs. His experience and professionalism were also great assets to the team this year. He is very deserving of this award."
- San Jose Coach Frank Yallop on Huckerby's M.L.S recognition.
Just a fan: Huckerby watches on at Carrow Road last weekend.

The MLS season is done for Huckerby as the Earthquakes missed out on the postseason, and the popular number 6 is back in Norwich where his heart really lies. He was in the crowd amongst his people last Saturday as Norwich failed to hold on to a 2-1 lead to beat Preston North End, and as a season ticket holder, you would assume he will be there again this weekend for the visit of Swansea. A visual reminder for City fans of some good times behind them and some rocky ones ahead.


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