A battered and bruised Sammy Clingan was tonight looking forward to treading pastures old tomorrow as the Sky TV cameras prepared to roll on Norwich's early evening clash with Nottingham Forest.
The 24-year-old anchor midfield man once again returned from international duty slightly worse for wear – this time it was two stitches and a banadage on his head following Northern Ireland's 2-0 home defeat by Hungary in midweek.
He also had a large bruise somewheee above his ankle – all small beer compared to his autumn shoulder injury. Again sustained on another bruising night out with Nigel Worthington and friends.
It would, you sensed, take rather more than a head wound to stop Clingan returning to the City Ground; particularly given that his sister's birthday celebrations include a 13-strong travelling party from Belfast making the flight to the East Midlands tomorrow.
“I got a bit of a knock against Hungary,” he admitted at Colney this morning. “I just jumped up to head the ball and actually caught one of the lads just above their eye – and I got two stitches.
“It's OK. And then at the start of the second-half I got a kick on the ankle… But that's OK as well. So I'm fit and available for Saturday.”
Right at this particular moment in time, a Norwich City 'Player of the Season' vote would be interesting; clear-cut candidates are few and far between as the likes of Darel Russell blots his copy-book with that red card, whilst John Kennedy's impending departure back to his usual employers Celtic might undermine his claims for a mid-season Barry Butler.
Indeed, if actually having your name on a full-time Canary contract is one of the criteria required then Clingan wouldn't be too far away. Certainly, given the fact that he arrived from a newly-promoted Forest on a free, he looks one of the best value signings the club have made of late.
He is also one of the few players whose name you would pen in from the start.
“Forest was the first fixture I looked for when the fixture list came out,” said Clingan, due many a reunion tomorrow.
“And it will be a special occasion to go back there. But I'm not going to let it all affect me – I'm just going to get on with my game, play and hopefully get a win for Norwich.”
Given Forest are slowly starting to turn their season round on the back of a four-game unbeaten run – albeit with three draws thrown into that equation – and Norwich are where they are, on and off the pitch, so this weekend's live TV game is at least something of a 'must-draw' contest ahead of Tuesday night's key home clash with Crystal Palace.
No time for faint hearts. Which is why Clingan's fitness is so important and why Roeder's anger is so deep every time he returns from international duty both battered and bruised.
Clingan made 85 league appearances for Forest in his two-and-a-half year spell at the club; the reaction to his return will be interesting… a good servant, but one that walked out on a free… Could be a mixed bag.
“I joined in the January in my first season and we just missed out on the play-offs,” he said. “And we were struggling at the start when I first came. And in the next season we were in the play-off semi-final and then, obviously, last season we got promoted automatically which was a nice feeling – and I'd like to see the lads doing well this season.
“They've been sitting towards the bottom of the table, but recently they've picked up and we've got to be wary of that. But, hopefully, we can go there and get a result.”
How they are doing now, he says, is not his concern. “I've moved on; I can't worry about them – I've gt to worry about Norwich City now,” said the one-time Chesterfield star, with worry being the operative word.
“It's going to be a tough game – there's no doubt about that. But, hopefully, as I say we can get the win.”
As for the reception that awaits, he has little clear idea. “I'm not too sure, to be honest.
“I always gave 100 per cent any time I put the Forest shirt on – as I do with any team. And I'm just looking forward to going back. I've got 13 people coming over from Belfast to watch as well, so it'll be a special occasion.”
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