Darren Huckerby is a two-time Norwich City Player of the Season and current coach of the Canaries' Under-16s side. He is 39 and lives in Norwich.NCFC: Hi Darren, thanks for talking to us. You played for nine different clubs over the course of your career. Why do you think Darren Huckerby and Norwich City fitted together so well?
I think I got here at the right time. Things were on the up, and obviously we managed to win the league when I first got here so that was a big help.
I had some really successful times at Coventry and Manchester City as well, and even at Lincoln, but it felt like everything was right here and it all worked out. Sometimes it happens that way.
NCFC: You were, and still are, hugely popular with the supporters. Did that help you thrive, or did it bring any extra pressure?
A bit of both I think. The fans warm to you if you produce for them, that’s how it is for every team. I was lucky enough to start really well, we got on a great run and we won a lot of games.
Any fans will like players who contribute and help the team get points, and players who bring a bit of flair and bit of attacking intent to the team and I was lucky enough to do that.
NCFC: Your association with the Club is strong – do you consider yourself a Canaries supporter?
Definitely. Obviously my boys have grown up here, they’re Norwich City fans and we go and watch a lot of the games.
This is my home now, it’s been my home for ten years and I don’t see that changing in the near future. I think I will be associated with Norwich for the rest of my life.
NCFC: If you had to pick one moment or one highlight from your playing career at Carrow Road, what would it be?
Winning the league was a big thing, especially the way we did it. It was a real team performance over the course of the season.
Any time you’re successful, really. There were ups and downs but every game I got to play for Norwich was a privilege to be honest.
NCFC: You can’t stay away from playing! Why do you still turn out for a veteran’s team on a Sunday morning?
You still want to keep playing and keep yourself in shape. I still join in with the Under-21s every now and again too, to show them how it’s done!
I love playing and I love testing myself still. I might not be as quick as I was but I can still run a bit. It’s just nice to keep and have that camaraderie amongst players.
NCFC: How much has changed with the Under-16s coach today compared to the teenager who made his professional debut 22 years ago?
Hopefully I’m a little bit wiser. I’ve still got the same confidence; I still believe in myself, which you have to do. I try to pass that on to the young players here the best I can.
You have to have that inner belief. Coaches can help you along the way but at the end of the day it’s down to yourself. Unless you’ve got that drive, you won’t get anywhere.
NCFC: At what point in your playing career did you start to think about staying in the game as a coach?
It was late on. I always thought that it wouldn’t be for me, but I’ve been lucky enough to have played in every division in England, abroad, the Champions League and the UEFA Cup, so I’ve got some experience.
Also, I started in the Third Division with a team that had no money and who were under constant and severe financial difficulties, so I’ve been around a little bit. That’s a good starting to point to work with kids who have the same dream I had.
NCFC: Do you get a similar buzz to what you got as a player, or if not, how does it differ?
It’s different but you still get a buzz. It’s obviously different compared to playing, but you still want to win every game, you want your players to do well and you want those players to make it into the professional game.
Nothing beats playing though. Everyone always says that but it’s true.
NCFC: What are the core values you like to see in a young footballer looking to make it in the game?
I look for hard work and dedication, they’ve got to be the first two without question.
I like people who have got a gift and use it very well, so if someone’s really quick or another’s really good on the ball, how can they make the best of that? I believe you’ve got to have a weapon in the modern game, and the better the weapon, the bigger the chance you’ve got of making it.
If you’ve got something that’s exceptional, you’ve still got to try and make that better.
NCFC: Would you describe yourself as a workaholic?
Yes I would, even though as I was probably classed as a flair player. I was very professional and I took my job very seriously, which I still do now.
If someone goes up to you when you’re a kid and says you’re not good enough, then you can accept that, but if someone says that you don’t work hard enough, I don’t think you can accept that because you can change that. You often can’t change talent.
NCFC: Fans love to see players push through the youth system and into the first-team – do you firmly believe everything is in place in Norwich City’s Academy to make that happen?
Hopefully it is. We’ve made quite a few changes over the last four or five years, and we’re going in the right direction.
If you’re in the Premier League though, it’s of course even harder to get players into the first team because the players are exceptional. If you’re in the Football League it’s probably easier to bed players in, but the Premier League is one of the toughest leagues in the world.
NCFC: Where do you think the coaching path will take you from here?
I don’t know at the moment. I enjoy what I’m doing, which is working with the Under-16s and the Under-21s. To be honest, I’ve got no real interest in being a first-team manager. I’m happy doing what I’m doing and I think I’m good at what I do. I’m happy where I am at the minute.
NCFC: Do you see you and your family’s long-term future in Norfolk? You seem very settled.
I hope so. Obviously I can’t do this forever. I can coach for a little bit but I want to do other things as well. I’ll do this for the next few years and then I’ll see where I am, but I’ll always go to watch and look out for what Norwich City are doing.
NCFC: Who’s your best friend in football?
I speak to Adam Drury and Dion Dublin quite a bit and I see a fair bit of Iwan Roberts, we share a few pints down the pub every now and again! I still speak to Gary Holt a lot too because I see him here every day.
I’m very lucky that over the years I’ve met a lot of people, and I’ve kept in touch with most of them. I’ve been at a lot of clubs and tended to get on with everybody.
NCFC: You spent some time in the United States. How big could MLS become?
I think it’s growing. David Beckham going out there started everything, but with Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Kaka etc. there are a lot of top class players out there now.
Will it always be second fiddle to the Premier League? Of course, but Americans try to make everything as big and the best that it can be so I’m sure it’s going in the right direction.
NCFC: Back to Norwich – finally, how would you sum up your association with Norwich City in one word?