Stefanovic determined to stay and help City back
PUBLISHED: 10:49 11 June 2009 | UPDATED: 10:05 06 July 2010
Dejan Stefanovic is hoping for the chance to repay Norwich City after he was given the green light to return to football. The 34-year-old Serbian damaged cruciate knee ligaments in November, having made just 12 appearances for the Canaries since a summer move from Fulham, and City's dire season ended with relegation in his absence.
Dejan Stefanovic is hoping for the chance to repay Norwich City after being given the green light to return to football.
The 34-year-old Serbian damaged cruciate knee ligaments in November, having made just 12 appearances for the Canaries since a summer move from Fulham.
In his absence City plunged to relegation. But the centre-back has been cleared to join pre-season training on July 2 - and is counting on playing his full part in helping the club back to the Championship.
“I visited the specialist in London on Tuesday and he gave me the green light to start playing again, so I'm looking forward to pre-season,” he said. “It has been a very difficult time - to be out for seven months, especially with the team struggling and the fact I couldn't help. I have done a lot of work in the gym, I am a mentally strong person and I am looking forward to a new challenge.”
That challenge, he hopes, will be League One football after telling City boss Bryan Gunn he wants to stay and see out his contract.
Though it will be Gunn's call, moving on has not been on the defender's mind - despite relegation activating an automatic pay cut.
“For the last seven months I have only had in my mind to be fit for pre-season,” he said. “I'm not even thinking about other clubs.
“I have a contract here for another year. It all depends on Gunny and what he wants to do. I will have a chat with him in the next few weeks and we will wait and see. But I'm not a person who likes to move around and I would like to stay to help this club get back to the Championship.
“Everyone needs to take responsibility for what happened last season. I would like to repay this club by helping it move forward again - as simple as that.”
Stefanovic does not flinch at the prospect of playing third tier football next season - although he admits to not reading up on the club's new destinations.
“Not at all,” said Stefanovic. “I've played 19 years at the top levels and when I signed for Norwich I thought we would be challenging for the Premier League, top six maybe last season and the new season push on, but things do not always go the way you plan and unfortunately we were relegated.
“But that is life in football and this club, its facilities, supporters - as I've said many times - it should be playing in the Premier League. Who knows, maybe again one day.
“As a professional footballer, it doesn't matter if you're playing in front of 25,000 people or 5,000, you play for this club and you have to take responsibility to play well for the club.
“It is harder to play in front of 2,000 fans of course, but the players need to deal with that.”
Whatever awaits, Stefanovic believes Norwich need to aim for an immediate return to the Championship.
“It is much easier to come back straight away,” he said. “Look at what Leicester did - it is not always possible but it is the best way.
“After that it gets more and more difficult the second, third, fourth years to come back because players are going to want to play at a higher level and you try to sign more of the kind of players for this league.
“If we keep most of the players here and add a couple more, this club should have a good chance.”
Although he is yet to play under City's management trio of Gunn, Ian Butterworth and Ian Crook, he believes the summer will be perfect for them to make their mark.
“They need a little bit of time as well,” said Stefanovic. “This is the best scenario for them, they can get the players they want, spend some time with them and go from there.
“They have got plenty of time to be with the players who want to play for this club in this league and it will be much easier for Gunny as well.
“He is a good person and he communicates well with the players. His first six months in the job will have been a good learning curve and now he has got the time to plan, work out the players he wants to get in and get to know them all.”