Paddy Davitt verdict: Adam Idah dispels Premier League storm clouds
- Credit: Michael Sedgwick/Focus Images Ltd
Try telling Norwich City starlet Adam Idah the FA Cup has lost its lustre.
The 18-year-old started Saturday's third round tie at Preston carrying the weight of a big build up on his broad shoulders from club boss Daniel Farke.
He finished it with his international boss, Mick McCarthy, playfully hinting a full call up for the Republic of Ireland might not be that far away.
As statement's go, it surely does not get much bigger.
Idah demonstrated in one 86-minute shift he possessed the instincts of this 'natural born goalscorer' Farke had outlined on the eve of a landmark senior shift.
Pitched unexpectedly into the limelight, with a worrying injury bulletin around Teemu Pukki, and with back up options Dennis Srbeny and Josip Drmic similarly unavailable, Idah departed clutching the matchball after an assured hat-trick.
Caveats are required. Preston remain an aspirant Championship club, with Alex Neil making nine changes.
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That included an afternoon off for City fan and Preston number one, Declan Rudd, but his deputy, Connor Ripley, went above and beyond in providing ample assistance to ease Idah's transition.
Yet in the manner of his composed finishing, the sharpness of his movement and a willingness to accept the responsibility to smash home a hat-trick clinching penalty, these were signposts transcending an FA Cup third round date in front of a modest Deepdale crowd.
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Whether Idah can catch the eye at Old Trafford, when the Premier League survival quest resumes this weekend is another matter entirely.
That hinges on Pukki's availability as much as anything else.
But one thing is abundantly clear. Idah is now in the conversation as a viable option, hence why Farke wasted little time in rowing back from the stated plan to get the Irish teenager out on loan this month.
The City chief even joked he might have to send his fantastic Finn out instead, if Idah maintains this ratio.
He will certainly remain in the building for the foreseeable until the health and vitality of Norwich's striking stocks is clear.
Should Idah find himself down the pecking order again by the climax of the transfer window then the loan option makes perfect sense. Games and goals lower down the tree can only aid his emergence as a major frontline option for whatever league Norwich inhabit next season.
There was a joyous freedom of expression and attacking verve encapsulated in Idah's performance that spanned City's general output at Deepdale.
After the grind and the frustration of top flight life it was blessed relief.
It perhaps also graphically underlined the chasm between the two leagues.
Norwich were still far too sloppy without the ball, and reliant on Michael McGovern's shot-stopping prowess, but the manner they sliced through Preston's defensive lines suggested they had many attacking gears to find.
Preston lacked the quality or the precision to really punish the cheap turnovers and careless work in possession Norwich have routinely encountered in the Premier League.
Despite rare progress to the FA Cup fourth round, and the bucking of a quite wretched trend in the world famous competition, those nagging doubts still persist for the defining part of the Premier League struggle.
Former City chief Neil offered a detached view, formed by his own assessment from stuyding Norwich's festive battles, and armed with the knowledge and bitter pain of a failed top flight tilt in his own time at Carrow Road.
Neil observed his old club had been impressive against Tottenham and Crystal Palace, even in Boxing Day defeat at Aston Villa, but the Premier League is an unforgiving environment.
Like Jose Mourinho before him, he felt their lowly status in the league table should not be misinterpreted as a badge of dishonour.
Norwich is a good team, with good players.
Few would argue in these parts, but they have struggled to shed residual deficiencies in the defining moments at Premier League level and until they are eradicated a route to survival looks improbable.
But Idah's eye-catching FA Cup bow illustrated whatever league Norwich find themselves in next season there remains cause for huge optimism.
There is nothing stagnant or end of an era about watching such a fresh-faced powerhouse of a striker starting to deliver on all that promise and goalscoring pedigree at junior level.