City boss Paul Lambert has paved the way for Steven Smith to make his home debut tomorrow night, with Adam Drury still doubtful with a calf injury.
The long-serving Canary defender was forced off during the weekend draw with QPR and the smart money would be on Drury missing tomorrow’s Carrow Road clash with Crystal Palace.
But Smith has impressed Lambert during his two appearances so far, and the City chief is pleased with the cover he’s got in that left-back position. To be fair, he has decent cover all over the pitch. That’s the beauty of the class of 2010/11.
“Adam never really came out of the side last season and with Rhoys [Wiggins] leaving, I had to bring somebody in,” he said this morning, speaking to the press at Colney.
“Steven has come in and I thought he was brilliant on Saturday and when he came in at Bristol City. We have good cover.
“But it doesn’t matter whether you have come from Rangers or anywhere else, you have to earn the right to be in the side. Drury has been brilliant and Steven was a bit unfortunate in Germany to get the injury.
“He’s only really just coming back from that and I threw him in at the deep end [at Bristol City] when he probably did not expect it. But he has done well in the last two games.”
With City youngsters George Francomb and Tom Adeyemi out on loan at the moment, fellow starlet Korey Smith came in for some special praise this morning, with Lambert admitting that the 19-year-old has been “exceptional” since the Scot’s arrival in Norfolk last August.
It seems that the City boss’ preference is for the young lads to ‘learn their trade’ on loan somewhere before they are ready to taste regular first-team football at Carrow Road.
But Smith has avoided that particular route and is now one of the first names on the team-sheet after showing remarkable consistency during the past year.
And with the Hertfordshire-born player set to come face-to-face with former AC Milan and Holland star Edgar Davids tomorrow night, Lambert feels Smith is a match for anyone at this level.
“The other lads [who are out on loan] are still kids and they have not learned their trade yet. But Korey has been a one off for us – he has been exceptional.
“But he is mature for his age, strength-wise, and he has played a lot of games for us now. Korey has played games in Championship, last year in League One and he is the exception. The others are just kids learning their trade.
“Korey is only 19-years-old and if you come up against someone like that [Davids] it is great for him. On his day, Edgar was one of the best players in Europe but age catches up with you and Korey is young and hungry so I don’t think there will be any fear.
“You have to counter their strengths with yours but I would not ask Korey to change his game for anybody.”
Tomorrow night’s visitors are struggling at the wrong end of the table and it’s been a tough start for their new manager George Burley, whose strong Ipswich links are sure to guarantee he receives a ‘lively’ welcome come kick-off time.
But Lambert was sticking to the same pre-match script and insisted it will be another tough encounter. And to be fair, it’s the right approach to take. City are only 11 games into their Championship return after all.
“It is another hard, hard game for us; another tough one. Every week I say that you have to earn the right to play and if we don’t play every bit as well as we have been then we won’t get the result. It is a hard league and I think everyone is capable of winning.”
In team news, as well as the probable Smith for Drury swap, Lambert will also have to find a replacement for Elliott Ward in the centre of defence, with the former Coventry man missing out due to a one-match suspension.
Jens Berthel Askou is the obvious choice to step in, but the Canary chief has been reluctant to start the Dane since his return from injury earlier in the year.
Russell Martin moving inside from right-back could be another option open to Lambert, but as per usual, he wasn’t giving too much away. Watch this space.