Luckless Simon Lappin’s night cut short by injury blow
A spontaneous burst of cheering or even a polite ripple of applause from the Press box is not really the done thing, but I’ll wager most of us were quietly pleased for Simon Lappin when he rattled in Norwich City’s opening goal at Carrow Road on Tuesday night.
When Lappin struck first in the 2-1 Capital One Cup victory over Scunthorpe United, it was only four days short of five years since his last senior goal for the Canaries.
That was an audacious effort floated in from about 40 yards and it came in a 2-1 Championship home defeat by Cardiff on September 1, 2007, so long ago that Peter Grant was City manager at the time.
It was Grant who brought Lappin to Norwich from St Mirren in January that year for a reported �75,000, and he made his debut for the club in a 2-1 home win over a Leeds – Jonny Howson scoring for the visitors – longer ago than any other member of the current Norwich squad.
The intervening years have not always been kind to the ever-polite Scot, who was banished from the first team picture for 14 months by Grant’s successor, Glenn Roeder.
Yet his demeanour never changed and he steadfastly refused to publicly criticise the way he was treated. He simply knuckled down, trained hard and waited for his chance to come again.
It came, briefly, under Bryan Gunn’s ill-fated reign, but more permanently with the arrival of Paul Lambert as manager, when Lappin topped the appearances list in 2009-10, playing in all but two of City’s League One fixtures as they claimed the title by a nine-point margin.
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He made a further 27 Championship appearances the following season as the Canaries clinched promotion to the Premier League.
That, we feared, might be that as an influx of new signings meant Lappin did not even feature on the bench in the first half of last season, save for a brief Carling Cup outing as substitute.
But everything comes to he who waits and after nearly five months on the sidelines, his surprise recall at Queens Park Rangers in the New Year fixture brought another happy ending – a 2-1 victory.
Since then, the 29-year-old Lappin, though his senior outings have been limited, has been something of a lucky charm. Each time he has played, City have won, save for the remarkable 3-3 draw at Arsenal in May, and that felt more like a victory.
He probably became tired of being asked by reporters when he was going to come up with another goal, but always managed a wry smile at the question. Now he doesn’t even have to answer that one.
Each of his goals has been a bit special – not least the superb winner he scored at Celtic during a loan spell with Motherwell – but it is rough luck indeed that having ended his goal drought in style at Carrow Road, he now faces another spell on the sidelines.
The ankle injury he suffered attempting to add to his goal tally early in Tuesday’s second half means he is once again playing a waiting game, in more ways than one.
Said manager Chris Hughton: “He has just jarred his ankle and he is going to be out for a few weeks – probably two to three weeks – but I think that’s good news because it was one we feared was a little bit worse than that at the time.
“But it has settled down a fair amount now and it’s nowhere near as bad so we’re only expecting him to be out for two or three weeks. It’s just a twist.
“It was very unfortunate for him and probably the ironic thing is the time when he got injured was an opportunity for him to get a second goal, having got into a couple of very, very good positions.
“So I feel for him because he is a good lad. He trains hard every day and he has a wonderful attitude to training and playing but these are the disappointments that you have to cope with.”
After 125 senior games, the next question is whether Lappin can force his way back into a midfield department bolstered during the summer by the arrival of Jacob Butterfield, Robert Snodgrass and Alexander Tettey, with Hughton restricted to naming 25 players for the first half of the Premier League season – excluding the under-21s.
“We’ll have to see where we are come the end of the window and they are the decisions I have to make,” said Hughton.
“We all know what the rules and regulations are and we will have to work around that one. That decision will be made once we get past the end of this window and I know exactly what we have got.”