Fotheringham: I need game time

DAVID CUFFLEY Mark Fotheringham is eager to make up for lost time tonight by grabbing his opportunity in Norwich City's depleted midfield.


Mark Fotheringham is eager to make up for lost time tonight by grabbing his opportunity in Norwich City's depleted midfield.

The Canaries begin a run of eight Coca-Cola Championship games in 26 days when they face promotion-chasing Preston North End at Deepdale (7.45pm).

And with injuries and suspensions chipping away at manager Peter Grant's squad, Fotheringham appears to have the perfect chance to stake his claim for a regular place in the starting line-up.

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Dickson Etuhu misses tonight's encounter with his former club because of a one-match suspension, but is also struggling with a hamstring injury, while Moroccan international Youssef Safri is rated very doubtful because of “tiredness”.

It means 23-year-old Fotheri-ngham is almost certain to start in central midfield, a prospect he relishes after weeks with very little compe-titive action.

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Since making his debut against Leeds in City's last Championship game, the young Scot has seen just 30 minutes' action - as a substitute in Saturday's FA Cup defeat at Chelsea - after being left idle for a fortnight in between by the postponement at Luton and his ineligibility for the FA Cup replay against Blackpool. Prior to that, he was short of match practice after quitting Swiss club Aarau.

He said: “That's why I've come here, to play. It's going to be tough to go to Preston but we've got good strength in depth in the squad just now and the players know that if there are injuries, there are guys who can come in and do a more than capable job.”

Fotheringham reckons the Saturday-midweek-Saturday routine facing City over the next four weeks will suit him down to the ground.

He said: “That's what you want - to play as many games as you can. Sometimes when you've got two games a week, you're able to get your rest and you're able to get stuck right into the games, whereas training can become a little bit repetitive. If you're getting to play two games a week it's perfect, it's what I need at the moment.

“The league is our bread and butter and it's a very important game for us and hopefully we can get a string of results together.

“It looks like a very tough schedule but I knew that before I came here. The Championship's a very tough league. There are some big clubs in this league.

“But we're confident with the squad we've got and I think we can beat anybody on our day, so we will go to Preston with confidence, especially after the performance we put on at Stamford Bridge. We were beaten 4-0 but I think the performance was good and we've got to take confidence from the game.

“It was good experience to play against world-class players in a great stadium in front of great fans and I thought the lads gave a good account of themselves.”

City still need four or five wins from their remaining 16 games to be sure of Championship football next season. For the eternal optimists among their supporters, a dozen wins could spark an unlikely challenge for a top six place. Either way, completing the first double of the season tonight would be very welcome.

Fotheringham said he was impressed with Preston in their televised FA Cup game against Manchester City on Sunday, despite a 3-1 home defeat.

He said: “I watched their game. David Nugent looks really sharp, and he's going to be a big threat for them. But I think as an all-round team, they're pretty solid and they are well disciplined. They try to get the ball down and pass it.”

After nearly three weeks with City, Fotheringham said he felt very much at home.

He said: “To be honest, it feels like I've been here longer. The lads are really nice guys and they've been very welcoming.

“It's great to work with the gaffer, too, because he's a midfielder and he's always passing on little pointers about your positional play and it's really exciting to come here and work with him. It's a great opportunity to come down and work with a man with his experience. He knows the midfield position inside out and he's always giving pointers. Every day in training, you are learning off him.”

Grant said Fotheringham had been close to starting the Chelsea tie.

He said: “Mark is right at the forefront. He is one of the boys I thought about on Saturday, whether I started him or whether I didn't, because Chelsea is his sort of arena. He would have thought he was as good as any of the Chelsea boys because he has that bit of bravado about him. He is a top-quality player.

“It was a tough choice to leave him out at the weekend because he has got something a wee bit different, he can create moments of magic. He will get his chance to show people how good he is by doing the proper things. Now it is just a matter of doing it for the team because we know what he can do on the ball. He has got to realise it is not a magnet either, he just wants to touch it all the time.”

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