Lappin in frame for recall

David Cuffley Opportunity knocks for at least one impatient Norwich City midfielder after the news that Wes Hoolahan has been ruled out of action for the rest of the season.

David Cuffley

Opportunity knocks for at least one impatient Norwich City midfielder after the news that Wes Hoolahan has been ruled out of action for the rest of the season.

And it could mean the end of one of the longest first team exiles in the club's recent history.

Simon Lappin has not featured in the Canaries' starting eleven for 16 months - a total of 74 competitive games - but he may at last get his chance of a comeback in Saturday's Championship match at second-placed Birmingham City.

The 26-year-old Scot, who has played for City on the left of midfield or at left-back, has been named as a substitute for the last four matches, and has been on the bench eight times in all since former boss Glenn Roeder dropped him after the 3-0 defeat at Plymouth in November 2007. But not once has he managed to get on to the field.

Now he may have a role to play in one of the most crucial games of the season as manager Bryan Gunn considers his options after Hoolahan had surgery on ligament damage to his left ankle.

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Gunn admitted the game at St Andrew's was “potentially” Lappin's chance, though on-loan Australian winger David Carney - the other midfielder on the bench for the last four games - is another strong candidate after replacing the in-form Hoolahan for the second half in Saturday's 1-0 win over Plymouth.

Gunn said: “Simon is in our thoughts and that's one of the reasons he's on the bench at the moment. He very nearly came on at one stage in the game on Saturday, but circumstances changed and he didn't get on.

“But he's got to realise that he's getting close to it by the very fact that he's in the squad, on the bench.

“As I said to him and David Carney, it takes a little bit of patience. I know it's difficult because everybody wants to play but I've always stressed there are only 11 names that can go out there first.

“But there are certainly five on the bench who need to be ready to go on and then some of the other members in the squad who aren't in the picture at the moment need to keep their fitness levels high and opportunities will come along.

“As I've said to the players on many occasions, I don't know what's round the corner but opportunities may arise - and this opportunity has come along for someone else now.”

City have two vacancies to fill in midfield against the Blues with Darel Russell starting a two-match ban for his two yellow cards against Plymouth, but who gets the central role remains to be seen.

Matty Pattison and former skipper Mark Fotheringham have been out of favour, but striker Alan Lee's imminent arrival on loan from Crystal Palace could even enable Alan Gow to switch to midfield.

The rest of the news from the treatment room is brighter, with Carney and Lee Croft shrugging off niggling injuries.

“Crofty and David have spent a couple of days with the physio because both had knocks last week,” said Gunn.

“Crofty had a tight thigh at the end of the Cardiff game but trained on Friday morning and played 90 minutes. David had a dead leg from the reserve game against Chelsea but he trained on Friday morning and played 45 minutes on Saturday, so we were just making sure they didn't get any further knocks in training.”

Another option for Gunn would be to recall Adam Drury at left-back after a seven-match absence, and push Ryan Bertrand forward into the wide left role.

“Adam's back, fit and well, crunching tackles in training just like the Adam Drury you would expect, so there are no problems with him at all,” said Gunn.