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12 May 2015

Exclusive interview with former City striker

JAMIE Cureton believes keeping composed will be the decisive factor in Saturday's Sky Bet Championship play-off semi-final second leg against Ipswich Town (12:15pm).

The 39-year-old forward graduated from City's Academy in 1993, spending a further three years at Carrow Road prior to departing for Bristol Rovers.

During his first spell at the Club he earned cult-hero status among Canaries supporters for dying his hair green ahead of a 1996 meeting with their rivals before scoring in the fixture.

He returned to Norfolk from Colchester United in 2007, and once again made an impact in the derby by striking in a 2-2 home draw which marked Glenn Roeder's first match in charge.

Speaking exclusively to, Cureton said: "It’s a huge game, being one match away from an appearance at Wembley and the chance to get to the Premier League.

“As a player, the build-up is probably the worst bit so you just try to get through it. After that, it’s a case of keeping a level head and making sure you’re occupied.

“Once you get to the game, your only focus is on performing. That’s when you feel your best, because out on that pitch is where you can have an influence.

“They’ve had a whole week to prepare, so the build-up is constantly being thrown at you. That makes playing the easiest part of it all, because it’s where every footballer is most comfortable.”

The prospect of a first Wembley appearance in 30 years increases the intensity which comes with a regular derby meeting, and Cureton added: "I think the players probably realise it’s not just a league game now.

“If you score the winner on Saturday to take the Club to Wembley you’ll be remembered for a lot longer than normal. I’m sure that’s what most of the Norwich City players are thinking.

“They know, whatever happens, if they win then they’re always going to be remembered. For me, personally, I’d be going into the game thinking of scoring the winner to become the hero.

“There’s no better feeling than scoring in the derby and having the whole city calling your name. The goal for this group now is to get to Wembley, and then to the Premier League."

Having experienced a play-off final defeat with Reading in 2001, the nomadic striker - currently with Dagenham as he closes on 300 career goals - understands the pressures that come with such games.

However, the rewards for coming through the end-of-season format are plain to see, with Cureton commenting: "Everyone says how good it is to get promoted via the play-offs.

“I’m sure the players know that, and they’ve got a lot of experience to draw on. In these semi-finals, the teams will be vying to get to the next stage.

“The crowd will be buzzing and right behind the boys so it should be a party atmosphere. Hopefully Norwich can get through, and then be successful at Wembley as well, whoever they come up against.

“It’s a special occasion, which the players will sense. With so much at stake, the whole city will be buzzing if they win.”

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