Glenn Roeder's hopes that Ched Evans might stay away from the headlines this summer went up in smoke last night as the 19-year-old striker marked his full, senior Wales debut in all-too familiar manner – by scoring the only goal against Iceland with an outrageous back-heel.
And all after being on the pitch for all of five minutes…
Evans – fresh from signing a new, three-year deal with his full-time, Premiership employers Manchester City – was one of a clutch of teenagers handed their first, senior appearance by Wales boss John Toshack in Iceland last night.
He is, of course, a player that figures highly on Roeder's 'Most Wanted' list – as in the one of last season's loan signings that he most wants back.
On that basis, the Canary chief would have settled for a quiet night out in the Lougadal Stadium; a performance that didn't add too much to the teenager's burgeoning reputation outside Eastlands and Norfolk.
Instead, as Joe Ledley pinged a low, 45th minute cross into the Iceland box, so Evans proceeded to steal the show with a glorious back-heel for the game's one and only goal. Suddenly, the Canaries will not be the only club looking to whisk the 19-year-old away on loan again at the start of next season; there will be an orderly queue forming around the nearest block.
Even if Manchester City agree to let their blossoming starlet out to play. On last night's evidence and Wales boss Toshack was expecting City to keep their Rhyl-born striker within the building. At least for the start of the season.
“Maybe he will go out on loan again next season ? he did very well at Norwich last term ? but City are clearly going to give him his chance to prove what he can do,” said Toshack last night, as Evans – with nine goals from just eight Under-21 appearances already to his name – added a new clutch of admirers.
The icwales.co.uk website found two Welsh legends to sing the youngster's praises – former Wales captain Kevin Ratcliffe and goalkeeping legend, Dai Davies.
“Joe Ledley has got away from two men and Ched has a lot to do, but, like all goalscorers, he knows where the goal is,” said former Everton hero, Ratcliffe. “He looks something else and could be one hell of a player.”
Davies was singing from the same hymn-sheet. “The confidence Evans showed for a teenager on his debut was incredible,” Davies told icwales.co.uk. “You can tell he expected to score from that position.”
Evans himself was keeping his feet firmly to the floor. He has an even bigger stage for his teenage talents this weekend when the Welsh travel to Holland to give the Dutch a final run-out before the start of their Euro2008 campaign. Pull another trick out of the bag against the men in orange and Evans' name really will be up in lights – and the Canaries really will have a fight on their hands to drag him back to Norfolk.
“All I can remember is adjusting my feet, and luckily it came off,” Evans told reporters afterwards. “I won't be celebrating, though ? we've got to prepare for Sunday's game in Holland and look to get another positive result.”
Norwich's cause may, however, not all be in vain. For it is clear that Eastlands will be in the grip of a full-scale revolution this summer as the fall-out over Sven-Goran Eriksson's impending exit begins.
City's final day humiliation by Middlesbrough was seen, by many, as a dressing room vote of no confidence in the club's autocratic ruler – ex-Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra – and the names of Micah Richards and Richard Dunne have already been prominent in this summer's transfer rumour mill.
According to reports in Thailand, Eriksson's fate is due to be sealed before June 15, with the Swede now linked to the Mexican national job.
Those same reports also insisted that Sinawatra has his heart firmly set on bringing former world player of the year Ronaldinho to Eastlands for the start of next season as a possible 'peace offering' to the furious Manchester public. A big name manager and similar high-profile signings will, you still suspect, knock Evans further down the pecking order – however well he does under Toshack's charge this summer.
Find himself fifth in the ranking come the end of August and Evans may well decide that a loan spell – at least through the first transfer window – may well be in his best interests. If only to hammer home a point or two.
That the lad has a bright future in the game appears to be the one given. He now has a World Cup qualifying campaign to sink his teeth into next autumn as Toshack continues to look to build his Wales team around the next generation of Welsh youngsters.
“He has a natural scoring talent and he took his chance really well. He can be very pleased with himself,” said Toshack last night, admitting that Evans was the pick of that Under-21 bunch.
“Ched stole the show. He has just signed a new contract at Manchester City and it is pleasing that they are showing confidence in him. He has plenty to learn yet, but I am just happy that he is being given his chance at City.”
Unfortunately for the Canaries, the 'City' that was first and foremost in Toshack's mind was Manchester City, not Norwich City. But August 31 remains a long way off and there is plenty of water that needs to pass beneath that Eastlands bridge before anyone in Norfolk rules out a return of 'Evans The Goal'.