Unsung hero Lappin has performed with distinction
Skipper Grant Holt has inevitably grabbed most of the headlines in recent weeks with six goals in his last five appearances for Norwich City, including his hat-trick against Ipswich Town and last week’s double at Coventry.
Manager Paul Lambert is not one to indulge in excessive praise of individual players but even he acknowledged after the victory at the Ricoh Arena that top scorer Holt had been “brilliant for me from day one”.
So brilliant, it seems, that four Premier League clubs are reported to be keen to take the 29-year-old into the top flight – now that would be a truly remarkable ascent for a striker who was playing in League Two little more than 18 months ago.
The Carrow Road faithful will be hoping Holt will one day complete that particular transformation in Canary colours by helping them win promotion again, but Lambert has been at pains to play down any over-excitement at what his team has achieved in the first half of the season, and after his tribute to Holt, was once more determined to emphasise the collective responsibility for his side’s success.
“Grant’s every bit as important as every other player I have got in the dressing room,” he said, with a certain amount of understatement.
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“If we are going to survive we need everybody, in the dressing room or in the team.”
That means, of course, those whose efforts are not always given the recognition they deserve, at least not outside the immediate team environment, and whose faces are not always on show on the back page or filling the TV screen.
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One man whose contribution has summed up that “team player” attitude this season, and especially over the past two months, has been Simon Lappin.
Lappin has started the last seven matches at left-back, by his own admission not his first-choice position, in the absence of injured pair Adam Drury and Steven Smith. It has not been an easy job against some fairly handy right-sided players – James Henry at Millwall, Jobi McAnuff at Reading, Robert Snodgrass of Leeds, Carlos Edwards of Ipswich and, after a half-time change of formation, David Nugent of Portsmouth.
Nugent, admittedly, caused the City defence as a whole – and not merely Lappin – big problems and played a key part in both Pompey’s goals.
But generally the Scottish midfielder has performed a difficult task with distinction and given Lambert valuable breathing space in not having to rush Drury back too soon after his calf injury.
The Canaries’ longest-serving player is, thankfully, back in full training and will no doubt be itching to get back into the side, but Lappin has certainly not let the side down in his absence and has continued to play a significant part in the attacking third of the field, setting up Holt’s first goal against Ipswich and Chris Martin’s goal at Derby.
Just where the 27-year-old Scot would figure in Lambert’s plans was not entirely clear in the summer when Andrew Surman arrived from Wolves and started the season as first choice on the left side of midfield, where Lappin had topped the appearance chart last season.
He still made an early impact by coming off the bench to set up Holt’s late winner at Scunthorpe in the second Championship game of the season, but it took Surman’s unfortunate training injury to provide him with another chance in midfield.
It is ironic that a second knee problem for the unlucky Surman has since opened up midfield opportunities for others while Lappin has been preoccupied with full-back duties, but you won’t find him complaining about his defensive switch.
There may be something about the role of the full-backs, getting up and down the pitch and getting on with their job, that means they tend to be taken for granted.
Only a select band of full-backs have been voted player of the season by City fans – Greg Downs, Mark Bowen, current assistant boss Ian Culverhouse and the aforementioned Drury. And Russell Martin’s contribution at right-back was, until recently, a little overlooked.
But it is worth remembering that Lappin’s debut for the Canaries, in a 2-1 home win against Leeds nearly four years ago, came at left-back in place of the suspended Drury – and he collected the man of the match champagne into the bargain.
Now, after coming through 16 months in the wilderness, in which he did not play a first team game, he has passed 100 appearances and has more senior games under his belt for City than any member of the current squad except, of course, Drury.
That in itself is good cause to raise a glass over Christmas to one of City’s unsung heroes.
• With Rod Stewart booked to perform at Carrow Road in June, will we get a rendition of his classic 1978 hit, Ole Ola? His Scotland World Cup song included such memorable lines as “We’re gonna bring that World Cup back from over there” and “There’s really only one team in it” . . . yes, Argentina, as it turned out.
It might have been better to have reprised Slade’s Take Me Bak ‘Ome in honour of Willie Johnston, but hindsight is a wonderful thing.
For your Christmas quiz, can you name the two Norwich City players of the 1980s to feature in the lyrics of Ole Ola?