Safri ready to take chance

DAVID CUFFLEY Youssef Safri looks set for another chance to stake his claim for a regular place in Norwich City's midfield when they visit Sunderland tomorrow - but knows another disappointment is just round the corner.


Youssef Safri looks set for another chance to stake his claim for a regular place in Norwich City's midfield when they visit Sunderland tomorrow - but knows another disappointment is just round the corner.

With Carl Robinson (calf injury) and Dickson Etuhu (sore foot) both rated 50-50 for the Coca-Cola Championship match at the Stadium of Light (3pm), Safri is a good bet to follow up his impressive performance as an early substitute in Tuesday's 3-1 win over Leicester with a place in the starting line-up.

But even if he performs well tomorrow, the Moroccan international knows he must sit on the sidelines again a week later when the Canaries entertain Sheffield Wednesday, after picking up his fifth yellow card of the season.

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A first-half challenge on Leicester's Danny Tiatto was deemed worthy of a booking by referee Darren Deadman, which means a one-match ban for Safri.

He said: “I was shocked with that booking because I just went for the ball with my head. I couldn't understand because there wasn't any challenge and it wasn't bad. It just seemed strange because a few lads had really silly bookings.

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“I hadn't played for a while, so when I had just come back and there was a good win and a good performance from all the players, you want to play every game, so I'm really disappointed about the fifth card. I want to play every game, I don't want to be on the bench or suspended. But these are the rules so I have to wait again.”

The 29-year-old Safri was thrilled, however, with his reception from the Carrow Road crowd when he was sent on in place of injured skipper Adam Drury.

He said: “I was so pleased with the reaction of the fans. I was so, so happy. I did the right thing to work hard and winning the game was good for me because I hadn't played for a while.

“It was so, so good - all credit to the fans because they weren't silent for a single minute. From the start until the finish it was

fantastic support from them and you can see that from the reaction from the players as well. Everybody could hear something good for the players, giving them a lot of support.

“I was looking forward to starting the game but I didn't, so when I came on I worked hard and we got the win, which is so good for me and the team.”

Asked if he felt he had done enough to be in the starting line-up tomorrow, he said: “I think I did, but if not I'll be respecting the decision from the manager and working hard and just waiting for another chance. Like I said, everything from the manager I have to respect but I think I deserve to start.”

Safri knows from last month's 1-0 home win over Sunderland that they will provide a stern test on their own territory, but hopes Tuesday's victory will provide a confidence boost.

“When we played against them they were a very, very good team. They've got a good manager and he used to be a great player, “ he said.

“But the win we had against Leicester has given us a lot of confidence to get back to winning games and hopefully we can do it this Saturday. I think all the lads feel much better after the win and everybody's looking forward to the Sunderland game.”

Apart from Robinson and Etuhu, manager Peter Grant has doubts about Drury (back) and Thorne (thigh strain), while Gary Doherty (ankle) and Craig Fleming (hamstring) are definitely not involved. On-loan Lee Camp will continue in goal after an impressive debut against Leicester, while Paul Gallacher is sidelined for at least another week with ankle ligament damage.

But Grant said: “There's no use moaning about injuries. We've just got to get on with it. It would be nice if they were spread out a little.

“Hopefully we'll get one of them fit. That would be massive because that would help us out, especially if Adam's out. If I have to think about the full-back positions, that would leave me a midfield player short somewhere along the line, so I'm hoping one of them makes it. Hopefully there will be enough time to get some of them back.

But he admitted that youngsters such as Michael Spillane could come into his thinking.

“I've no qualms about playing the young boys. I've said that before and Michael will come into our thoughts.”

Grant expects Roy Keane's men to be confident after putting together an unbeaten run since their defeat at Carrow Road four weeks ago, courtesy of Robert Earnshaw's goal.

“It will be the same as the last game - very, very difficult,” he said. “I thought they were the better side on the day, against us here. Earnie got the one chance and buried it for us so we were delighted at that. But they're on a run of games now and they're getting a bit of confidence about them. Roy's getting the team to play the way he wants them to play, they've got a few results at difficult places and they've won well at home.”

If the City boss is looking for omens, however, his second game for the Canaries in 1997 brought victory at Sunderland, 1-0 courtesy of a goal by Daryl Sutch.

He said: “It's always a difficult game. But I've got good memories of going there and Norwich being the first side ever to beat them at the Stadium of Light. I was fortunate enough to play in that, so hopefully there will be a similar outcome come the weekend.”

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