Ruddy nearing Norwich return

Former Paris St Germain coach Antoine Kombouare claims to have

held talks with three Premier League clubs last summer.

Kombouare left Parc des Princes in December 2011, with the

ambitious Ligue 1 outfit keen to move in a different direction

under a more high-profile manager.

The ex-Aberdeen defender offered enough, though, during his time

in the French capital to attract interest from England.

He says he was approached by a number of teams looking for a new

boss in 2012, but failed to land himself a Premier League post and

ended up heading to the Middle East with Al-Hilal.

Kombouare, who currently finds himself out of work once more,

told L’Equipe: “After my sacking from PSG I had a six-month break.

Then I wanted to coach in the Premier League, rather than

France.

“I had contacts but it was never sorted because I was always the

second or third name on the list.

“The contacts? West Bromwich Albion, Swansea and Tottenham. I

went to London to meet officials, but it never came to

anything.

“I didn’t want to join a small club or a small European league,

so I finally chose Saudi Arabia.

“Since my departure from Al-Hilal I have had some very serious

contacts, but the projects didn’t really excite me. I want to

manage clubs playing at the top of their league.”

The 26-year-old has not featured for the Canaries since the draw

at Everton on November 24 after needing surgery on a torn muscle in

his thigh.

Ruddy, though, stepped up his rehabilitation after a second full

match in the Barclays Under-21 Development League defeat on Monday

night at Bolton, and impressed with a clean sheet in the 1-0

victory.

Should all go well this week, then Ruddy is likely to be in goal

for Norwich’s crucial Barclays Premier League game against bottom

club Reading at Carrow Road – where three points would go a long

way to securing top-flight football once again.

Norwich senior professional development coach Scott Marshall

said on the club’s official website: “John was on form and made a

couple of good stops. He is getting there definitely.

“I am sure he will be pleased with the match action he got and

it is another one on the road to getting back to full fitness.”

The likely return of Ruddy, who was part of the Euro 2012 squad

only to suffer a broken finger when training with England, will be

a welcome boost for Norwich manager Chris Hughton as he looks to

get his side over the safety line.

The Canaries were just five minutes away from a famous win at

Arsenal on Saturday, before a controversial penalty sparked a late

rally as the hosts eventually ran out 3-1 winners.

Results elsewhere over the weekend left Norwich – who have

recorded just one victory in 2013 but lost only three of the last

10 league games – still just four points above 18th-placed Wigan,

who now hold two matches in hand after reaching the FA Cup

final.

However, with key homes games against fellow strugglers Reading

and Aston Villa set to come, as well as the visit of West Brom on

May 12, Hughton remains confident his side can close in on the

fabled 40-point mark.

Winger Anthony Pilkington, who has been sidelined by a hamstring

injury, could come back into contention against the Royals, as

could Irish playmaker Wes Hoolahan, who was rested at the Emirates

Stadium.

“I want Anthony for the five games we have left of the season so

we had to look at the bigger picture,” said Hughton.

“After not playing for a month, I had decided I wouldn’t start

with him and you then have a decision to make whether you use him

from the bench.

“With Wes, I just decided to make a change for this one. He has

played a lot of games, Wes and I just felt it was the right time to

give him a rest.”

Midfielder Bradley Johnson will be assessed after hobbling off

on Saturday with a dead leg.