Enter Srbeny – City’s patient striker may have timed his emergence from the shadows perfectly
How quickly things can change in football. Dennis Srbeny has largely remained in the shadows at Norwich City during the last 18 months but now he’s a Premier League goal-scorer.
How quickly things can change in football. Dennis Srbeny has largely remained in the shadows at Norwich City during the last 18 months but now he's a Premier League goal-scorer.
The German forward has proved that patience truly is a virtue, with the thrilled reaction of team-mates and supporters hailing his victory sealing strike at Everton on Saturday.
His chance may have arrived via a fortuitous deflection as Emi Buendia had attacked in injury-time but the 25-year-old stayed strong to hold off Mason Holgate and shoot before Colombia defender Yerry Mina could stop him, slotting past England number one Jordan Pickford.
There was more to his goal than just a close-range finish though. The move was started by Srbeny making a nuisance of himself in the air, challenging Mina to reach a Tim Krul kick. A classy flick from Tom Trybull subsequently started the attack, linking with Buendia and Max Aarons on the right. Then once the ball had arrived kindly at his feet, two deft touches were needed while being pulled back by Holgate - which could well have led to a penalty anyway - before curling the low effort past Pickford.
Not bad for a player who was plying his trade in the fourth tier of German football four years ago, knee-sliding over to the jubilant away fans as he rolled out his trademark salute.
When Srbeny made the move to England back in January 2018 however, he will clearly have been hoping to use that celebration more than five times in 41 games across almost two years.
The striker came through the youth systems of clubs in his home city of Berlin, at Tennis Borussia Berlin and Hertha Zehlendorf, to earn a move to Hansa Rostock - a club which spent much of the 1990s and 2000s in the Bundesliga.
Although a regular scorer for Rostock's second team, four goals in 24 games in the third tier of German football left Srbeny wanting more and he opted to step down a level in 2015.
He moved to Berliner Dynamo and scored 28 goals in 55 matches in Regionalliga Nordost - the fourth tier and equivalent level to where Daniel Farke was coaching Christoph Zimmermann at Borussia Dortmund II.
That prolific form was enough to earn a move back to 3 Liga with Paderborn, where Mario Vrancic had been playing Bundesliga football in 2015-16, only for successive relegations to leave them in the doldrums in the third tier in 2017. Enter Srbeny.
After an impressive nine goals and eight assists in 15 games had put Paderborn top of the table, Farke made his move and Norwich forked out a reported £1.3million for the tricky forward.
They went on to win promotion without Srbeny and are now back in the Bundesliga playing top level football - where their former fan favourite has now joined them.
With Switzerland international Josip Drmic set to be out with a hamstring injury until January, it was Srbeny coming on for top scorer Teemu Pukki during the closing stages at Goodison Park, scoring the most important goal of his career so far.
His first six months had proved something of a settling in period, with seven of his 14 starts coming from the bench and the only goal arriving during a 3-1 home win over Aston Villa.
There had been the occasional flash of exciting ability however and the opening day of 2018-19 suggested more was to come, with a swashbuckling display as a substitute helping earn a 2-2 draw at Birmingham, setting up Onel Hernandez's injury-time equaliser with a powerful run.
Even better looked to be on the cards when Srbeny scored a brace in the League Cup before the opening month of the campaign had concluded, including a powerful strike as a 3-1 win at Cardiff knocked Premier League opposition out of the second round.
It would be Pukki and Jordan Rhodes leading the way as Farke's favoured forwards though. Three goals in 20 games saw all 15 of his league appearance come from the bench, scoring his only goal during a 4-0 romp at Sheffield Wednesday in November.
Two brief cameos during the final 19 games suggested Srbeny may not follow City into the Premier League, but with a contract until 2021 with the option for a further year, the German has waited for his chances.
After experiencing the high of scoring in an away win in the world's most watched league, Srbeny can look forward to City having nine games in the next six weeks, knowing it will be a big ask of Pukki to play all of the time during that busy spell.