Chance to shine for Norwich City outcasts

PUBLISHED: 07:00 08 September 2009 | UPDATED: 11:58 06 July 2010

Norwich's outcasts get one final chance to impress Paul Lambert in tonight's opening reserve league fixture against Southend's second string at Carrow Road.

Norwich's outcasts get one final chance to impress Paul Lambert in tonight's opening reserve league fixture against Southend's second string at Carrow Road. (7.30pm)

Gary Doherty, Wes Hoolahan and Darel Russell are all named in Ian Crook's starting line-up on the same day the loan window re-opens amid growing speculation over the trio's imminent Carrow Road exits.

Doherty has been left out of Lambert's last three league squads after a shaky display in the 4-1 League Cup defeat to Sunderland.

Hoolahan is also awaiting his first league involvement since Lambert's arrival but Russell had been brought back in from the cold recently with a first start of the season in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy win against Brentford.

Russell began the season training with City's youth players ahead of a widely touted Premiership move to Burnley that failed to materialise ahead of last week's transfer window deadline.

Championship duo Watford and Swansea are both reportedly tracking City's Irish duo with Lambert reiterating at the weekend he was prepared to offload fringe players to attract fresh blood.

Crook, however, is backing the club's senior professionals to make the most of tonight's shop window in front of the watching Scot.

“It's an opportunity for them to get a game under their belt and to showcase themselves in front of the gaffer,” said Crook. “We're putting out a side with a lot of boys who have first team experience. Those players who have found themselves out of the side, for whatever reason, now have a chance to show the gaffer. I'm not going to lie, of course its difficult maybe for the established pros when you get put down into the reserves.

“It would be wrong to say any player would enjoy that, but its football. That is part of the game. For those boys this game is all about how good their attitude is going to be and I know we'll have no problems with that. It's difficult but that is their job and now they have the opportunity to maybe show themselves in a good light with the gaffer.”

Australian back-up keeper Michael Theoklitos is in line for his first outing in a Norwich shirt since the calamitous 7-1 League One opening day defeat to Colchester.

“We've all had games like that when things don't go right for you,” said Crook. “He's just got to get back on the horse now. He's been working really hard with Paul Crichton in training in the last few weeks and I'm sure he's keen to put that game behind him now.”

Crook is confident City's return to the Combination East Division set-up and potential games against the likes of Peterborough and Watford this season is a major plus for Lambert.

“The reserve side now comes into its own even more,” he said. “Previously it made the manager's job that bit harder to find out about these players but the number of games and the level of the opposition we will face this season now gives the gaffer that chance to really see if they can make the step up.

“That gulf has maybe been too wide in recent seasons, especially for the younger players, to go from the youth team to the first team is a massive step. The whole point of any reserve side is to have that stepping stone. Now they'll have that platform to come in and improve.”

Crook wants the club's latest crop of academy talents to use reserve football as a springboard to emulate the success of established first team squad members Korey Smith and Tom Adeyemi.

“That is very much the whole point of having a successful youth policy and the role the reserves can play within that structure,” he said. “It's something that we have to do because, like most clubs, there are a lack of finances which are available now outside of the Premiership.”

Norwich reserves (starting XI): Theoklitos, Francomb, Habergham, Doherty, Stephens, Russell, Whaley, McDonald, Maric, Hoolahan, Martin. Subs: Dumic, Steer, Kelly, Dawkin, Brindley.

Admission prices for tonight's game: £4 adults, £1 over 60s with free entry for under 16s and all season ticket holders. The Jarrold Stand will be the only public area open to fans with the Barclay Lower now closed for league reserve games. The Soccer PM initiative also returns tonight with free activities and competitions for under 16s from 6pm in the concourse area of the Jarrold Stand along with scheduled player appearances from Grant Holt and Paul McVeigh.

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