If teenage City tyro Korey Smith was as frustrated as everyone else by events in the West Midlands last weekend, you couldn’t tell.
For after missing Norwich’s last three games with a niggling thigh strain, the 18-year-old Academy product was in line for a return to Paul Lambert’s starting plans – only for a dozen, ageing braziers to spoil everyone’s festive mood.
But with Stephen Hughes rated very doubtful for today’s trip to the Adams Park home of Wycombe Wanderers, so Smith has another opportunity to reclaim his starting berth.
He knows that opportunity knocks again for him to enjoy a lengthy run in Lambert’s starting line-up. Snow, ice and all else permitting.
“You can’t be frustrated,” said City’s former FA Youth Cup skipper, fast proving one of the ‘finds’ of 2009.
“Obviously I had the chance of playing and the match was cancelled, but there are a lot more games this season so I have just got to try and get myself back in the team.”
Starting this afternoon as Stephen Hughes struggles to shrug off a knock to his calf.
“I’m feeling back to full tines,” confirmed Smith. “I can’t feel my thigh any more – there’s no pain there – and if I play, then I’ll just try and get through the match and, hopefully, I’ll be fine.”
To have been forced to sit out the last three games after having enjoyed such a productive autumn has tested the young man’s patience, but time is firmly on his side. That and no little talent.
He would also appear to have the temperament to make the grade; he has hit a consistent level of performance rare in one so young. Nor has he picked up a booking; again unusual in the ranks of hot-headed midfield youths all-too eager to make their mark on the opposition.
“It’s been really hard to be out for the three games,” he admitted.
“You think that you might not be able to get back into the team or something.
“But, at the end of the day, you’ve got to be confident in yourself and believe in your ability to get back into the team and around the squad.”
There will, of course, be the argument that the teenager might, actually, have benefitted from the break; that the relentless nature of League One football could have caught up with his still-growing frame. Did his enforced rest do him good?
“Maybe – in a way,” he said. “I have played a lot of games compared to what my body is used to at this kind of level and tempo.
“So, obviously, this rest might well be good for me, but hopefully we can keep going and get promoted.”
With a game now in hand on second-placed Charlton following the farce of Walsall, Norwich have a big prize dangling in front of them. It promises to be quite a spring as Lambert and Co gear themselves up for the final, mad dash to the finishing line.
“I think there is an expectation now – from everyone around us,” said Smith, as the Canaries gun for another big, three away points against a struggling Wycombe side.
“But we’re just looking at each game – each game we look to win. But we know that every game is going to be hard.”
The Buckinghamshire side have already won a special place in Smith’s heart – he scored a fabulous goal in Lambert’s first game in charge of the Canaries against Wanderers. Neither player nor manager have looked back since.
“I was out there with a couple of the young lads yesterday and they were saying: ‘That was your goal and you’ve got to do it again…’
“But I don’t know if I’ll be able to do that again, but I am looking forward to it – if I play.”
The very fact that Lambert threw Smith right into the fray in his first game in charge suggests that the manager has had faith in the youngster from the start. That faith is unlikely to have wavered of late.
“When he came in, I think he just thought that I’d trained well and put me in and obviously that paid off so, hopefully, I can keep going and bring it in to the match on Saturday – if I’m involved.”
Once back in Lambert’s starting plans, Smith has little intention of letting that chance slip again – it is what drives him on. The fear of being dropped.
“Even when I got injured, I wanted to be back. Even though people might say it was Christmas time…
“But I didn’t care about that. I just wanted to be back in the team. Obviously I’m fit now so hopefully I can do that.
“But it is a long season – and the whole squad is going to get used. But if you get in the team then you try as hard as you can to try and keep your place.
“And for an 18-year-old kid like me, you’ve just got to keep going. And if you don’t get in then you’ve just got to try and keep pushing.”