Safri’s presence essential to City

PUBLISHED: 15:18 04 February 2006 | UPDATED: 09:11 14 September 2010

The relatively short trip for those based around the capital on Tuesday night brought back memories of Charlton and Blackburn to name just two matches during last season.

The relatively short trip for those based around the capital on Tuesday night brought back memories of Charlton and Blackburn to name just two matches during last season.

To be fair to Reading, they are confident and playing well. We had no force up front and looked under pressure from the start. Good luck to Reading and may they enjoy it while it lasts. We were there just two years ago and I remember how it felt.

The more sympathetic would argue that it was not an unpredictable result, though the magnitude was a little embarrassing.

We blooded JJ and missed Dean Ashton and Youssef Safri. Looking forward, we have the minor occasion of entertaining those from south of the border.

We should see Earnshaw, the latest potential saviour of Norwich City, making his debut. Let's hope he has been talking to Leon McKenzie about debuts in the local derby.

A player making his much-needed return is Safri.

The statistic about not winning unless Safri is playing (since the West Bromwich Albion home game last year) has been doing the rounds recently. He should be returning after what was a disappointing African Cup of Nations for Morocco in Egypt.

Africa seems to currently be the place to search for new talent. Bolton and others have made a habit of it.

Norwich have not. Apart from Safri, the only African player I can remember is Pape Diop, from Senegal, who had a brief and unspectacular 10 games under Bruce Rioch in 1999.

The African Cup of Nations is of particular interest to me as after the Ipswich game I am going to Egypt for the final three games of the tournament in Cairo.

Though disappointed not to be able to see a little bit of Norwich City in action, I am looking forward to the experience.

On the plus side, Egypt are looking good to go far and at least reach the Cairo semi-final. The Cairo International Stadium holds 75,000 people, though reports suggest that a few more are managing to sneak in for the Egypt games. All the games have been live on Eurosport with extended highlights on BBC3.

Taking out teams like Zimbabwe, the quality can be very high and the commitment is second to none. My tip is Cameroon, who may well meet Egypt in the final. Watch it if you can.

t Editor's note: Efan Ekoku, who played for Nigeria, scored Norwich City's first goal in European football in 1993. He was in the Nigeria squad for the African Cup of Nations in 1994 and has been working as co-commentator for the BBC during the current tournament. South African centre-forward Alf Ackerman played for City in the early 1950s and goalkeeper Sandy Kennon, another South African, played 255 times for City between 1959 and 1964.

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