City boss Glenn Roeder nailed one thought firmly on the head after yesterday's 2-1 win at Cardiff City – that Ched Evans' stunning 35-yard winner two minutes from time was any sort of a fluke.
The Canary chief has spoken before of the 19-year-old's “hammer” of a right-foot – one that caught the winner away St Mary's last month equally sweetly.
Yesterday's 88th minute strike was, however, in a different league again as the on-loan Manchester City striker grabbed his fourth goal in a week with a rising drive that arrowed into the top left-hand corner of Michael Oakes' goal. The teenager had first picked up the ball from inside his own half.
As he sauntered forward, few noticed that he was busily rummaging through his tool box and with his favoured hammer in hand, the rest is already in danger of passing into Canary folklore as Norwich ended the weekend just four points shy of the play-off places – and still with 15 games to go.
“That is not the first time that I have seen him hit a ball like that,” said Roeder afterwards. The player himself admitted he'd scroed two from the half-way line in the summer with Manchester City reserves. The kid's right-foot packs a mighty punch – of that there is no doubt.
“It's the first time that you'd have seen it in an actual game, but I've seen that many times on the training ground. Believe me, that strike was not a fluke. And he will score goals like that during the rest of his career.”
Where, exactly, the rest of that career was now heading will be the subject of many a discussion – be it by Roeder, Sven Goran Eriksson or John Toshack, everyone is starting to wonder this is all heading.
Certainly 'How good can he get?' was the No1 question from the local Welsh Press, one eye already on Wales' forthcoming 2010 World Cup campaign. With Craig Bellamy invariably injured and neither Robert Earnshaw nor Freddy Eastwood able to force their way into a starting line-up, so they were holding on for a hero. The fact that Evans shares the same place of birth as a certain Ian Rush merely fuelled their hopes.
“Who knows?” was Roeder's response, well aware that Evans was likely to get the big treatment from the Press. Build 'em up; knock 'em down…
“Who knows? I don't know – you can't answer that question,” he said, more well-versed than most in teenage strike starlets. “I've been very fortunate to have had young players like Jermain Defoe come through my hands when he was 17, 18 at West Ham.
“And I would be exactly the same if I was standing where you are – pump the lad up and being Welsh, you may be looking for a young talisman to come along. But we do get carried away too quickly in Britain with our young players. They have a few good games and suddenly they're superstars.
“But it's my job to make sure that I keep his feet on the ground,” added the City chief.
In fairness, all the evidence suggests that Evans is one of the more level-headed teenagers to emerge into the limelight of late. In part that is the nature of the boy himself; in part that may be down to his up-bringing at Manchester City's famed Youth Academy. They did, of course, produce Joey Barton, so even their record is not without the odd blemish.
“He is, overally, a very sensible young man and I don't think his feet will come off the ground,” said Roeder. “But it is important that I do keep his feet on the ground – because that is how he will keep on improving and keep on scoring goals.
“But, who knows? He definitely is a natural goal-scorer and I know – because he's got a great attitude – he wants to work hard in training and improve on his play outside the penalty box. Which is fine. So who knows what improvement is in him? I just know he's doing a great job for us.”
Certainly it appears that Ninian Park likes both Roeder and his strike starlet after the latter bagged a hat-trick against France with his Welsh Under-21 hat on; yesterday's win could prove to be of huge significance as the Canaries prepare for a home run that now includes Hull City, Barnsley and Blackpool. As Barnsley, in particular, proved with their 2-1 defeat of league leaders West Bromwich Albion, they can still pull a surprise out of the bag.
But after ending Cardiff's perfect five-game winning sequence at the Ninian, in current mood Norwich will be fearing no-one this spring.
“I like Ninian Park – last time I was here as a player 30 years ago, we had to win to stay up. And Peter Kitchen scored the winner, so I've had good experiences here myself,” said Roeder, none you suspect quite as sweet as Evans' moment of magic this weekend.
“But the last time that Ched was here, he popped in a hat-trick and I think that was the day that I asked Sven if I could have him on loan.
“And he said: 'Glenn, I'll think about that and will let you know in the morning…' He scores a hat-trick and I'm thinking: 'Please, Sven, don't change your mind…' And, thankfully, he didn't,” said Roeder, as his scouting days within Eriksson's England set-up and his reputation for setting his stall out to play football persuaded the Swede to do business.
And not just once, but twice as Evans returned to Eastlands over the New Year before, finally, being allowed out to play again on a window-to-window basis.
“I'm doubly grateful to Sven for letting us have him until the end of the season,” added the Canary boss. “Because he's very important to us and I just hope that what he (Eriksson) has done for us, we can return (the favour) by sending him back a better player come pre-season training at Manchester City.”
And that's where Roeder is clearly convinced that Evans is heading this summer – back to Manchester City, as Eriksson sees for himself how well his little Welsh Under-21 gem has polished up under Norwich's care. The clamour that will inevitably follow for Evans to be signed on a full-time basis this summer is likely to fall on deaf ears.
“I'm pretty certain that Sven will have no interest in selling him because he needs to put him in with his own senior strikers at Manchester City to see how he compares. And at his age he can only get better.”
And he will get that senior Wales call-up. Of that there appears equally no doubt after fielding a phone call from the Wales Under-21 boss last week.
“Bryan Flynn called me before we flew down here just to say that he'd conducted himself very well,” revealed Roeder, after Evans' two-goal haul in Malta in mid-week.
“And he just said: 'Glenn don't be surprised if the boss, meaning Tosh, doesn't call him up for a couple of friendlies at the end of the season…'”
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