Football: Stuart hungry to lift Norwich relegation fight

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The Independent Online
GRAHAM STUART is out to get his Norwich career off to the perfect start when he returns to Everton tonight.

The veteran midfielder signed for the Premiership strugglers until the end of the season on the final day of the transfer window, leaving Charlton after almost six years of service. And after finding his first-team opportunities limited at The Valley this season, Stuart cannot wait to get back into action, particularly with his debut coming against another of his former clubs.

"I haven't played too many first-team games this season, but I'm still fit and I have still got a huge desire to play the game," Stuart said. "I'm ready to step in - but obviously it's down to the gaffer to make a decision on what happens. All I can say is that I will give my 100 per cent best when called on.

"I've played all the way across the midfield during my time. It's obviously up to the manager to decide on that. I'll do whatever I'm asked to do."

Stuart is likely to get his first run-out tonight, probably on the left side of midfield to free Darren Huckerby for a central striker's role alongside pounds 3m man Dean Ashton.

Stuart won the FA Cup in 1995 during his four-year stint at Everton. The season before he had found himself involved in a heart-stopping end to the league campaign when his late goal helped keep Everton up on the final day as they beat Wimbledon.

Stuart said: "I'm looking forward to going back to Goodison Park because that place holds a lot of happy memories for me."

However, the midfielder insists there will be no place for sentiment come kick-off time tonight as the Canaries continue their quest to move out of the relegation zone.

"Any side who manage to put together back-to-back wins could suddenly find themselves clear of the other three - and we've got to make sure that side is Norwich," Stuart said.

"Two wins on the trot would do wonders for our position - it would do wonders for our confidence as well. We've got to remain positive. We've got a 14-game season ahead of us and it starts now.

"There are plenty of points to play for - and from what I've seen of the lads so far they are convinced we can retain our Premiership status."

If Norwich do eventually pull off an escape act and beat the drop, then Stuart could be rewarded with a new deal in the summer.

Gary Holt is in contention for a start tonight after another run-out for the reserves, and Youssef Safri is expected to return to the bench. Simon Charlton also played for the second-string on Monday after recovering from a broken toe, but he won't be risked tonight.

The striker Ryan Jarvis is the latest player to join the Canaries' injury list with a knee injury. Mathias Svensson (knee), Thomas Helveg (calf), Ian Henderson (heel), David Bentley (knee) and reserve keeper Darren Ward (knee) are all still out.