No Norwich City debt owed, just a tip of the hat to Leroy Lita
I remember the Canaries’ 2-1 defeat to Derby at Carrow Road on October 4, 2008 a little more fondly than I should.
Largely it was because some good friends were over from Australia to take in their first Norwich City experience.
It was also a comical Saturday afternoon. David Marshall’s botched 85th minute clearance handed the Rams’ 10 men all three points and left Glenn Roeder with a few boos at the final whistle.
Almost fittingly given the howler that settled the match, weeks of investigations into “unusual betting patterns” surrounding the game followed – all subsequently dismissed.
Still, it was quite amusing at the time nonetheless.
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I remember David Bell making his first City appearance as a second-half substitute. Honestly, he looked quite handy.
And the game was also Leroy Lita’s full debut in yellow, having arrived on loan from ex-top flight passers by, Reading days earlier.
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His ‘emergency’ introduction brought seven goals in 16 Championship appearances, two bouts of ‘will-he won’t-he extend his loan?’ shenanigans and an added dose of quality to a front line relying on Antoine Sibierski and Omar Koroma.
In Roeder’s own words: “I certainly know he loves it here, he’s got huge respect in the dressing room, lots of respect from our supporters, everything is just perfect at the moment…it would be great to sign him.”
In the end, City were a long way from being in the right place to tempt Lita longer term – be it money or ambition. And there ended Lita’s short City career.
Moving as a free agent to Teesside that summer coincided with a terrible run of things at Middlesbrough; Gordon Strachan’s reign at the Riverside probably rivals Roeder’s down here. But Leroy did manage to squeeze in one more favour for his old side while playing in red.
It’s hard to imagine a Norwich City fan that didn’t leap from their seat at the last goal Lita scored on rival soil – after just three minutes of Boro’s clash in Cardiff a matter of five months ago.
A few hours of the Bank Holiday Monday and a 3-0 Boro win later, Norwich took to the pitch at Fratton Park – and the rest is history.
On Saturday, things come full circle – providing he makes it into the action for Swansea, who Lita joined for �1.75m in the summer.
So far it is two starts, four appearances from the bench and one goal since making his return to the Premier League. His reception was mixed when he played at Carrow Road with Boro last season and, on an afternoon when neither City nor Swansea will want to contemplate defeat, those in the Snakepit and Barclay won’t be too worried about doing much different.
And don’t expect any comments from Leroy in the media before – and probably after – the game. Apparently talking is something the striker doesn’t do any more.
Not to the independent media or those in-house at the Liberty Stadium, anyway.
The significance of that moment at Cardiff in May might well have completely passed Lita by. It’d be nice to be able to ask him.
But in the end, looking back to that strange 90 minutes in October 2008, both Lita and all those of a City disposition would have willed a return to the Premier League at the drop of a large, yellow hat.
And in the best spirit of roundabout ways often offered by football, everyone got what they wanted in the end.
The fascinating part now, of course, is trying to stay there.