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12 December 2016

Connections between City and their midweek opponents

STEVE Bruce returns to Carrow Road as manager of Aston Villa on Tuesday evening, having represented Norwich City with distinction during the 1980s.

Bruce joined the Canaries from Gillingham in 1984, and although his debut began with the ignominy of a first minute own goal on his debut, the central defender quickly established himself.

Scoring arguably one of the club's most famous goals when he netted the winner against rivals Ipswich Town in the Milk Cup semi-final, he was named Man of the Match in the subsequent final victory over Sunderland.

Moving onto Manchester United in 1987, Bruce earned legendary status at Old Trafford by making over 300 appearances before winding down his playing days at Birmingham City and Sheffield United.

He began his managerial career at the latter, and has since been in the dugout at seven different clubs, earning promotion to the Premier League with several of them.

Another player to represent the Canaries before managing Villa is Tim Sherwood, who plied his trade in Norfolk between 1989 and 1992 - alongside fellow midfielder Andy Townsend who played for Villa from 1993 to 1997.

He moved into management at Tottenham Hotspur in 2013, then was appointed at Villa Park in February 2015 with the team struggling against relegation from the top-flight.

Sherwood kept Villa up and took them to the FA Cup Final, but left early in the 2015-16 campaign following a disappointing start to the season.

The former England international, who notably won the Premiership title with Blackburn in 1995, was the immediate successor to Paul Lambert at Villa Park.

Lambert didn't enjoy the same levels of success with the Lions as he did with City, having led Norwich to back-to-back promotions from League One to the top tier between 2009 and 2011 with assistance from Ian Culverhouse.

Continuing the theme of managerial crossovers, Martin O'Neill has taken charge of both teams while Bruce Rioch served Villa as a player before later taking the top job at Carrow Road.

Much like O'Neill, who had earlier twice represented City during his playing days, 1990s midfielder Peter Grant returned to Norwich for a stint as boss from 2006 to 2007.

Grant worked on Villa's coaching staff during the 2011-12 season, and currently holds a position at Fulham.

A number of strikers have represented both teams, including Chris Sutton, Dion Dublin and Peter Crouch.

Sutton graduated from the Canaries' Academy set-up during the early 1990s, before moving on to join the aforementioned Sherwood at Blackburn Rovers in 1994.

He ended a distinguished playing career at Villa in 2007, and currently works as a pundit for various media outlets.

Meanwhile, the paths of Dublin and Crouch crossed at Villa Park, with the former's relative stranglehold on a striking role allowing the latter to move to Norfolk on loan in 2003.

Crouch played his part in City's promotion to the Premier League at the end of that season, while Dublin ended his playing days with City, occasionally lining up in central defence.

That role was also one performed by Carlos Cuellar, who was at Villa between 2008 and 2012 and with City for the 2014-15 season where he made ten appearances in all competitions.

Among Villa's current roster with links to City are Jed Steer and Mark Bunn, with the pair moving there directly from Carrow Road in 2013 and 2015 respectively.

They are in esteemed company in terms of goalkeepers to represent both clubs, with iconic stopper Kevin Keelan having briefly played for Villa in the early 1960s.

Finally, defender Ritchie de Laet, who spent part of the 2011-12 season on loan to City, signed for Villa this summer from Leicester City but is currently sidelined with a long-term injury.

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