Ryan Bennett relishing battle for place at heart of Norwich City's defence
Ryan Bennett's first experience of Newcastle's St James' Park was the moment he realised this was the stage for him.
The 23-year-old had to start out at the bottom with Grimsby to work his way to the top and the Premier League with Norwich but it was his full Peterborough debut in a Championship defeat against Chris Hughton’s Magpies in November 2009 that really whetted the appetite. Bennett may have achieved his top flight dream but staying there is another battle he will relish.
“It is a ground with a special memory. We lost that day unfortunately but that was probably the first time I realised these were the type of stadiums I wanted to play in every week,” he said. “It is obviously nice to be a Premier League footballer. You try as a young man to work hard to get to this level and it is kind of surreal at first but then you get used to it.
“You have to work hard on a daily basis because you know there are 50 or 60 clubs below you all with players striving to be in this position. There are always people trying to take your position and you have to be conscious of that. Hopefully there is a lot more to come from me in my career but I am not looking too far ahead into the future. I will just concentrate on playing now and the plaudits and recognition will come my way.”
Bennett has had to endure prolonged spells out of the side since moving to Carrow Road but made an impressive return to the starting line up at the expense of team captain Sebastien Bassong against West Ham prior to the international break.
“I don’t look at it like I have taken Seb’s place. That is football. Players come in and out of the side,” he said. “The chances are that will happen to me or someone else. It is just something that you have to deal with. I have had that for the last year and now I am in the side it is up to me to stay in there. I was hoping that would be the case after the Stoke win as well but it wasn’t to be.
“The manager makes decisions and it is up to me deal with. If I am selected I will always try to give my all and keep working hard.”
Chris Hughton was happy to publicly acknowledge Bennett could harbour a genuine sense of injustice after making way for a fit-again Bassong following a solid showing in City’s only Premier League away success this season in the Potteries. You sense listening to Bennett speak that such backing does not soften the blow when the defender feels he has contributed in a positive way.
“I just work hard every day and push myself as far as I can,” he said. “We’re all one big team. If we get a result, we do that as a team. That is what we are here to do, to represent Norwich, and if that means coming into training and then sitting on the bench then that is what it means.
“If it means starting every week and striving to get a result then the same applies. All I want to do is the best for Norwich and for the group of lads.
“I don’t know if anything has changed since the Stoke game. Maybe it is simply a case of some of the results had not gone well for us and when he has put me in before I think I have done okay. Maybe he just wanted to freshen it up.”
Bennett past experience ensures he is not taking his place for granted in the north-east this afternoon as the Canaries look to build on a West Ham win sparked by Gary Hooper’s nerveless second half penalty at Carrow Road.
“I knew about Hoops for ages,” he said. “When I was a young lad I went to Grays to watch him when he was playing and then when I was at Grimsby he was at Scunthorpe and I always thought he was a good player. Now he is here and he is proving that. We see him every day in training. His finishing is unbelievable. If he gets a few more chances I think he will really start to prove himself.
“We know it will be hard because Newcastle are in good form. The lad (Loic) Remy has been getting a lot goals and he has got a lot of pace but we will do our homework and try to come up with some plans.”