Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Raise your game, demands Ruddy

Norwich goalkeeper John Ruddy has challenged his team-mates to raise their game against league leaders Liverpool

Goalkeeper John Ruddy has challenged his Norwich team-mates to show they have what it takes to be Barclays Premier League players again next season by derailing Liverpool's title charge.

Reds captain Steven Gerrard told his Anfield colleagues they must all treat the Norwich clash like it is the last game of their careers as they aim to stay ahead of Chelsea and Manchester City at the top of the Premier League table.

The England captain struggled to keep his emotions in check following last weekend's 3-2 win over City, before pulling the team together into a huddle and declaring: "This is gone. We go to Norwich. Exactly the same. We go again. Come on!"

Norwich - who sacked manager Chris Hughton after defeat to West Brom and promoted youth team boss Neil Adams - are just two points above the relegation zone following a 1-0 loss to fellow relegation battlers Fulham.

Ruddy, a team-mate of Gerrard in Roy Hodgson's England squad, feels the beleaguered Canaries could do worse than using such motivation themselves.

He told Norwich City TV: "What it says to me is not just how driven and how focused, not just how much Steven Gerrard is, but how he wants the rest of his team to be that same way.

"And when you are fighting for a Premier League title it is evident that confidence and focus is there.

"But we have got as much to lose, if not more, than they have.

"We are scrapping for our lives and we all want to be Premier League footballers and at the end of the day, that is what it boils down to, how much do you want to be a Premier League footballer?

"How much do you want to play next year in games against Liverpool, Man United, Chelsea, Arsenal?

"Because if you don't put in the performances in these last four games, it is not going to happen."

Ugly scenes marred the end of Norwich's last home match on April 5.

Hundreds of clapper boards - which had been put on seats to help improve the Carrow Road atmosphere - were thrown onto the field, with one hitting Hughton.

Stewards had to intervene when Ruddy confronted one supporter behind the goal in the Lower Barclay Stand, and captain Russell Martin was also involved in a heated verbal exchange with a fan as he walked down the tunnel.

Despite the shambles against the Baggies, Norwich do have good form at Carrow Road since the turn of the year, winning three matches and producing a fine display to earn a goalless draw with Manchester City.

Ruddy believes Norwich can rise to the challenge this weekend, which is the start of a nightmare run-in which also includes trips to Chelsea and Manchester United before Arsenal visit on the final day of the season.

"In 2014 we have only conceded two goals at home and one of those was a penalty, so if you can't be buoyed by the performances that we have had recently at home, then you won't get up for any," he said.

"Certainly the crowd play a massive part and they have been with us all season through the thick and thin.

"They turned out in their droves on Saturday at Fulham and to replicate that on Sunday will see us through I hope."

Adams made some seven changes for the Fulham game, when Norwich enjoyed a good spell in the first half but failed to convert their chances - something which has been a fundamental problem all season.

Captain Sebastien Bassong could be in contention to return to the defence having missed the match at Craven Cottage, as did fellow centre-half Joseph Yobo.

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