Ex-City boss Nigel Worthington this evening gave Norwich new-boy Sammy Clingan the full, five-star billing – a better Gary Holt and, potentially, a Northern Ireland skipper…
“In fact I'm slightly surprised that no-one from the Premiership has come in and had a little punt and put him in,” said Clingan's international manager, speaking exclusively to MyFootballWriter as he flitted to and from various Euro2008 venues and his Norfolk base taking notes on Northern Ireland's forthcoming World Cup opponents.
“Because I think he can go all the way – I really do,” added Worthington. “And if someone had taken a punt from the Premiership, then being the sort of person that he is, I think Sammy would have risen to the occasion.”
Clingan has certainly made a big impression on Worthington having graduated through the Northern Ireland youth and Under-21 set-ups and on into the full, senior squad.
His performances in that central midfield role have, says the former Canary chief, made him one of the first names on his team-sheet. As an individual too, Worthington has plenty of time for Glenn Roeder's first signing of the summer after the 24-year-old today agreed to a free transfer switch to Norfolk once his current Forest deal officially ends on July 1.
“If that's Glenn's first signing of the summer, then it's a good one,” said Worthington.
“He's a super lad; a great pro; a model professional,” added the man who led the Canaries to a play-off final at Cardiff in his first full season in charge, before masterminding a runaway Championship title success two seasons later.
Denied a second stab at the top flight on the final day of the season, the 18 months that followed back in the Championship probably did Worthington's reputation few favours. But with the passing of both time and successive managers, his stock may yet rise again. Every manager has an Andy Hughes in him. Some managers have more than one.
He also managed to keep Leicester City in the Championship in his short, caretaker spell in charge of the Foxes towards the end of the 2006-2007 season before Milan Mandaric decided that Martin 'Mad Dog' Allen was the man for him. The rest is history as Worthington found a new home among the international jet-set – managing Northern Ireland to within a whisker of Euro2008 qualification.
Windsor Park has certainly seen few nights like the one in which a hat-trick from David Healy inspired the Province to a 3-2 win over the might of Spain – a night in which Clingan was very much on centre stage.
“I hold Sammy in very high regard – he's been excellent for me,” said Worthington, still firmly based in North Norfolk – as much as his international commitments allow.
One easy comparison, on the international stage, would be ex-Celtic and Leicester favourite Neil Lennon; closer to home and Gary Holt was a central figure in that 2004 title triumph and at ?100,000-odd from Kilmarnock remains one of the club's best pound-for-pound signings of recent times.
Worthington would put Clingan above both ability-wise; and as a free agent, looks very, very good value – if he does what Worthington says he does on the side of the tin.
“With no disrespect, I would put him above Neil Lennon in terms of his all-round play,” said the Northern Ireland chief. “Sammy gives you a lot more both defensively and offensively; his delivery from set-pieces is excellent.
“And I think he's a better Holt, too. He's got Holty's energy, but he's a good footballer as well; he's a clever footballer; he can see a pass and knock it.
“And, yes, he's been playing the holding role, but he likes to get up and down the park; he likes to get hold of the ball; he can score the odd goal or two, too. So, no, I hold Sammy Clingan in very high regard.”
Physically and Worthington suggests that he's not about to get easily knocked off the ball; he's no lightweight and with one red and six yellows to his name for Forest last season, the Belfast boy has a spot of street toughness to him.
“He's a strong boy; sturdy; very strong,” said Worthington, who as a former Northern Ireland skipper himself sees an opportunity there, too, in the future.
“I think he would be one of the first names on my team-sheet these days and with a little bit more experience, I think he would be an excellent captain,” said Worthington, with Roeder having already taken note of the young man's 'drive and determination' in his own welcome speech this afternoon.
It would appear that life has already put Clingan through the mill; that there might be an older than expected head on those young shoulders. In particular, the loss of his teenage cousin to a sudden heart-attack last July gave the City new-boy a real lesson in the brutalities of life.
“He was actually sitting in the dressing room with us when he got the devastating news,” recalled Worthington, who had called Clingan up as an over-age player for an Under-21 clash against an Everton XI to mark the 25th anniversary of the famous Milk Cup competition.
“So life's given him a few trials and tribulations already, but by digging in and battling through his come through it all – and all credit to both himself and his family for the way that they've dealt with it all.”
It would, given their shared background, be natural to assume that the two parties had spoken ahead of today's switch. Worthington insists not; that is not his business.
As an international manager he sits above the every-day transfer fray – even if he still keeps a very keen interest in where his international charges end up. Clingan's international room-mate Kyle Lafferty was on the move too – swapping Burnley for the club of his childhood dreams, Rangers.
“I think this will be a good move for him [Clingan],” said Worthington. “He's done exceptionally well for Forest and I've been waiting and watching for a while now to see if a move would come.
“But, no, I didn't get involved in at all – I leave that all to players and their agents now.
“But I'm sure that Sammy knows that Norwich is a good club and that Norfolk is a good place to live. And I know that Norwich City have made a very, very good signing.”