Norwich City boss Chris Hughton is relieved to get his international stars back fit
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Chris Hughton admitted he was ‘disappointed’ Steven Whittaker played the full 90 minutes in Scotland’s midweek Luxembourg friendly win with Russell Martin ruled out again for Saturday’s Premier League home test against Manchester United.
Hughton confirmed on Thursday afternoon at Colney that Martin had yet to resume full training after a back complaint suffered in the recent draw at Aston Villa. Scottish international colleague Whittaker has deputised admirably after his own long-term lay off from an ankle injury. The ex-Rangers’ full-back will retain his place against the Red Devils at Carrow Road this weekend, but Hughton conceded the Scot may have benefitted from a delayed return to the international ranks.
“He is fine but I was disappointed he played the 90 minutes. I must admit,” said Hughton. “He is a player who has just come back from a longish term injury. I was very disappointed, but he is a fit lad. I watched a fair chunk of the game and perhaps because of the nature of the game as well and the opposition it was reasonably comfortable for him. We’ve seen him and he feels absolutely fine.
“We are okay. Russell has missed a couple of games and he is still not available. It is one we felt was going to be touch and go for the last game, but it has just dragged on a bit longer than we would have liked. We are expecting him to train Monday, Tuesday and hopefully to continue to make progress. Apart from that the three lads who were away on international duty, Steven, Wes (Hoolahan) and John Ruddy have all come back fine. No injuries.”
Hughton split his television time watching Whittaker in action with Hoolahan’s long-awaited re-appearance for the Republic of Ireland in their 1-0 friendly defeat to Greece in Dublin. The midfielder played the second 45 minutes and Hughton saw enough to feel Hoolahan must be in Giovanni Trapattoni’s thoughts for next year’s World Cup qualifiers.
“I was pleased for Wes,” he said. “I was flicking the channels between Scotland and the Republic game. I was watching him in phases and we will try to watch the tape over the next couple of days. Certainly in the bits I saw he was desperate to get on the ball, he had some nice touches but what perhaps was most important was that he actually played. He has got that now under his belt after not being involved for quite some time. It’s now up to Wes. He is a good age, even for international football. He is not a young one who is going to be fazed by the international game – however big the challenge is going to be – I had no fears that way. Any other inclusion from here I know he will do very well.”
Midfielder Alex Tettey is also fit for United’s league visit after pulling out of the Norway squad for their midweek trip to Hungary. Tettey played through the pain barrier at Reading with a back issue.
“He had a problem the week before when he missed three or four days training. We were very confident that he would be fit for Saturday and that was right,” said Hughton. “He was a little bit sore in the game so we had to do the necessary work with him this week and he missed a couple of days training.”