City goalkeeper began career at Abbey Stadium
JOHN Ruddy is relishing the prospect of going back to his roots when Norwich City visit Cambridge United on Friday (7:30pm).
The 28-year-old made 38 league appearances for the U's during the 2004-05 season having graduated from their Academy, before completing a switch to Everton at the end of the campaign.
City's trip to the Abbey Stadium will mark a second homecoming in a playing capacity for Ruddy, who also featured in a pre-season defeat for the Toffees in July 2008.
The St. Ives-born stopper remains indebted to the first team he represented, and told canaries.co.uk: "It’s the place where I started and they gave me my chance in football so I’m very grateful for everything the club has done for me.
"They took a gamble on a 14-year-old who'd never really played in goal and helped me develop into a Premier League goalkeeper. I only spent one season playing in the first team but had my educational development around the stadium.
"We used to go there to get changed before training, and I'll be forever grateful for the opportunity the club gave me. It's a place that will always hold a special place in my heart.
"When I saw the pre-season fixtures it was one I was immediately looking forward to. I went down to watch them a couple of times last year and they had a really good season, so it will be a good test for us."
Speaking ahead of City's third pre-season friendly - which is set to be played across four quarters - Ruddy also hailed the impact of goalkeeper coach Dean Kiely.
The former Republic of Ireland international began work at Colney Training Centre in March, and the Canaries' number one explained: "It was always going to be difficult to replace someone like Tony Parks, but the Club have got a like-for-like in Dean.
"Since he's come in, he's been top-drawer, not just as a coach but as a person as well. His personality has really shone through, and it's impacted on the whole group rather than just the 'keepers.
"I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time working with him and am really looking forward to pushing on together this season. He was desperate to get back to the Premier League, and felt we had a fantastic opportunity of doing that when he joined.
"That’s been proven right, and we’re looking forward to becoming established in the Premier League now; it’s where he belongs as a coach."