City boss Paul Lambert this morning confirmed that the luckless James Vaughan will be sidelined until ‘the spring’ with the knee injury he sustained in the 2-1 win over Sunderland on Monday night.
The former Everton starlet – who has been dogged by knee trouble for the last five years – suffered a new and separate injury in the closing moments of City’s first home win of the campaign.
The fact that it was a ‘fresh’ injury is a bitter-sweet blow for the long-suffering 23-year-old. On the one it is good news that it is not a recurrence of an old injury; on the other, however, Vaughan must be cursing his luck to think that another new injury has reared its ugly head – and just as he was starting to force his way into Lambert’s first-team thinking.
“It’s a blow because I thought he was looking really good,” Lambert told reporters at Colney this morning.
The damage is to the meniscus in his left knee; that has now been surgically repaired but will still require lengthy rehab through the course of the winter.
He will, at least, have company in the treatment room. The City chief also revealed that Korey Smith is likely to be sidelined ‘for a couple of months’ with an ankle injury. He, too, went under the knife this week.
Whilst not wholly unexpected, the Vaughan news merely confirmed again how fragile a footballer’s career can be; how Lady Luck can play the cruellest of tricks on the nicest of fellas.
“He has battled really hard to get back, but he is going to be out for a few months,” said Lambert, putting a time frame of ‘three to four months’ on Vaughan’s recovery.
After a relatively trouble-free spell at Crystal Palace last season, a knee knock in the summer saw Vaughan miss out on much of pre-season; he has still to start a Premiership game for his new employers.
“Since he has arrived at the football club he seems to have had bad luck with injuries,” said Lambert.
“At Palace he never seemed to get injured. That is football at times – you need a lot of luck at times. But for him to be out for this length of time has shattered him a wee bit, but hopefully he’ll be OK.”
Otherwise, Lambert reported a clean bill of health from Monday night. Zak Whitbread is back in training, but tomorrow’s trip to Old Trafford comes too soon for the Texan centre-half to be included.
With Ritchie de Laet unavailable to play against his full-time employers under the terms of his loan switch, the newly redeployed Russell Martin and Leon Barnett will, therefore, continue in the middle of the Canary defence.
On the bench, veteran City defender Adam Drury can be expected to figure; he – like Martin – has switched into the middle in the past as well as offering cover at full-back.
The news from Old Trafford injury-wise was – for Reds fans – brighter in that both Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez are expected to be fit for the Canaries clash.
Rooney has been out for the last two games with a slight hamstring strain; his return to Sir Alex Ferguson’s starting line-up will add an extra dimension to the game.
Can City afford to make special provision for Rooney – and take their eye off any one of his team-mates?
Or does say a Bradley Johnson follow him wherever he goes and, in so doing, look to nullify the Rooney threat?
Such questions are for Lambert and Ian Culverhouse to ponder overnight. They are, said Lambert, heading to Manchester was a specific game plan in mind, but one that could go out of the window early doors if United let rip.
He was under no illusions as to the size of the task City faced; back-to-back home wins against first Bolton and then Sunderland might have confirmed Norwich’s ability to compete amongst the merely mortals; to dethrone the Premier League champions in their own back yard is another matter.
Lambert – as a player – has done it once with Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League; to repeat that feat as a manager would comfortably surpass that feat.
“We will give it a right good go,” Lambert vowed, insisting that the atmosphere and the stadium alone would be enough to lift his players. No pep talk would be required from him.
“There have been better teams than us who have gone there and got right turned over,” he said. “And that shows you the magnitude of what we have to face.
“But upsets sometimes happen.”