My wife doesn’t believe me.
Since you may now be imagining all kinds of scenarios in the Lewis household, let me hasten to clarify. I mean she reserves judgement when I talk about Norwich, especially about new players we’ve signed.
This isn’t the case of a wife unfairly distrusting her husband. Though I hate to admit it, there are grounds for her scepticism, with two particular examples.
The first was in summer 2013, when I enthused about our coup in signing Ricky van Wolfswinkel. Enough said.
The second was Saturday 16 August 2014. She’d had to miss our home game with Watford; I’d been, and came back with an enthusiastic report. Especially about our new player, Kyle Lafferty.
Oh, Kyle. It was all downhill from there. When my wife got to see him in action (football action, that is) she wasn’t impressed, and I couldn’t argue. He developed a Diego Costa-like appetite for trouble, without the counterbalance of impact and goals.
Since this is a topic where City fans have passionate and differing views, let’s try to suspend rhetoric for a while and stick to facts. His league career for Norwich reads as follows:
Yellow cards: 7
All of this in the Championship, of course, where we were one of the strongest teams.
It’s an interesting set of stats. People like Russell Martin and Cameron Jerome picked up a similar number of yellows last season; Tettey and BJ got a few more. But all of those spent three times as long on the pitch as Lafferty. And all – including Russ – have a better goals-to-cards ratio.
Ah yes, say some fans, but he wasn’t given a fair chance. While they’re quick to stress they trust Alex Neil (who saw Lafferty in training every day and gave everyone a clean slate, as Bassong would testify), they’re equally adamant that Laffs should have started many more games and would have been a prolific scorer.
For evidence, they point to his goalscoring record for Northern Ireland. At first glance, it’s a case: 16 goals in 45 appearances, including 7 in the qualifying group for Euro 2016.
Let’s take a closer look at his international goals. They came against Finland (4), the Faroes (3), Hungary (2), Sweden, Georgia, Poland, Greece, San Marino and Liechtenstein. In other words, he’s only scored against one team ranked in the world’s top 30. How compelling an argument is that, really, for someone to start in the Premier League?
I won’t dwell on his pre-Norwich background. Suffice to mention that he received an unprecedented two-month suspension in Scotland for pretending he’d been head-butted by Charlie Mulgrew. And the famous parting remark of his chairman at Palermo that Laffs was being sold because he was “an out-of-control womaniser”. Not altogether encouraging.
You’ll have gathered that I’m not Kyle’s biggest fan. Having said that, I don’t share the criticism and ill-will towards him that some have expressed.
Yes, I’ve been on the receiving end of some sharp comment from him. When I once tweeted that I thought Jerome should be our starting striker, I became one of the people that Laffs sought out to say he disagreed. I think he was pretty silly to do that, but I’ve no problem with him having the kind of pride that every successful sportsman needs.
And if he’d scored a bit more often on the field, we probably wouldn’t have minded where else he did it.
But, for now, he’s still a City player and as long as he sports the yellow and green he’ll have my support. Equally, if he does manage to acquire himself a loan move I’ll wish him well in the hope that he gets the playing time he craves before the Euros.
In contrast, I believe we have good reason to be excited about another new arrival.
I watched a lot of Championship football last year and saw some consistently impressive performers, including Matt Ritchie at Bournemouth, our own CJ and Chris Martin at Derby. I even thought Tyrone Mings might one day be worth a few bob.
But two players stood head-and-shoulders above the rest: Alex Pritchard and Patrick Bamford. It was no surprise to learn both were on loan from major Premier League clubs who had no intention of selling them.
Neither of them has really played in the Premier League yet, so of course there’s an element of risk. But sometimes you can see a special quality in a player, as for instance when Bellamy or Eadie first appeared in a City shirt. Bamford, intelligent as a man and player, has it too.
Quite reasonably, though, my wife will want to judge for herself.