Adam Idah stole the headlines but it was the antics of another City player that caught my eye during Saturday’s impressive FA Cup triumph at Preston.
Of course, Idah was majestic under the Deepdale lights, showcasing all his work-rate, movement, pace and trickery to reap havoc on Alex Neil’s defence and kick-start an – I hope – elongated Cup run this season.
But it was another man in yellow and green whose behaviour in the north-west warrants similar, and perhaps less desirable, attention.
And that man is Moritz Leitner.
Indeed, much has been spoken about the City No. 10’s exploits in one of the few games he’s featured in this season, trying to steal the ball from Idah to deny the 18-year-old a maiden career hat-trick and inexplicably refusing to celebrate when the striker’s penalty beat the hapless Connor Ripley.
And while many fans may justify Leitner’s behaviour on the grounds that he wants to impress Daniel Farke to get more minutes, score because he is an ambitious professional or merely just enhance his own personal record, I struggle to agree with such sentiments.
Leitner was out of order at Deepdale. Yes, I appreciate he may be frustrated over his lack of game-time this season and yes, I understand he will have acute desire to score having not done so since that thriller against Millwall last year, but there’s no way anyone can legitimise refusing to celebrate with a jubilant teenager who has just written his name into Norwich City – and FA Cup – folklore.
The point is, this Norwich team is ostensibly built on the commendable values of unity, togetherness, and teamwork. That, after all, is what currently renders us a Premier League side rather than a Championship one and is what engineered all those remarkable moments of last season.
Leitner’s behaviour undermined all of that. He prioritised personal gain – even with City cruising into the fourth round at 3-1 up – over the unbridled joy of Idah, a player who has waited patiently for his chance before firmly seizing it with both hands the moment it came.
That, for me, sits rather uneasily, particularly in a season where there have been few moments of individual brilliance to celebrate.
One player who did enhance his burgeoning reputation this weekend was Todd Cantwell, furthering his footballing heroics by showing his more personal values of benignity and – if nothing else – common sense.
Of course Idah should have always taken that penalty. In giving the ball to the No. 35, Cantwell was merely doing what was right.
If Leitner wanting to take the penalty was excusable, his response to Idah’s third goal was the polar opposite, turning his back in disdain as the striker celebrated his special moment in front of the travelling City faithful.
If Leitner really bought into this team’s notions of unity, selflessness and togetherness, he – as one of the more experienced players in the squad – would have been one of the first men over to congratulate Idah.
Of course, none of this detracts from the fact I believe Leitner is a fine footballer, an unequivocally important player for City who may well feature heavily in the second half of the season. I hope his actions at Deepdale were merely an anomaly, a blip in character that can be ironed out heading into the apogee of City’s relegation battle.
And none of this is to scapegoat a player who has represented a vital cog in Farke’s yellow and green machine over the years, instead just a judgement on one moment of regrettable selfishness that I hope he will learn from.
This was Idah’s day of FA Cup magic, however, and I hope any tension between him and Leitner can be harmoniously resolved heading into what could be – to quote Farke himself – a miraculous climax to the season.