Big George is back

Last updated : 27 September 2007 By Ben Collins

City were heading for extra-time against an injury-hit Norwich last night after an uninspiring performance by the Blues.

But up pops Samaras, one of 9 changes by Sven and almost a forgotten man since the arrival of the former England coach this summer.

Samaras was a mess by the end of last season.

The 22-year-old's last goal was a penalty against Sheffield Wednesday on January 7th and was just his 6th of the season.

Stuart Pearce stuck with Samaras, hoping his £6m signing from Heerenveen would eventually overcome his goalscoring problems if he kept faith in the young striker.

But the longer it went on, the more painful it was to watch. After that goal against Wednesday, Samaras failed to score in a further 18 appearances to the end of the season.

Samaras looked destined to leave in the summer with Pearce no longer around.

Sven splashed out £8.8m to make Rolando Bianchi his first signing and when Valeri Bojinov also came aboard, Samaras dropped to 7th in the pecking order up front with Mpenza, Corradi, Dickov and Vassell still around.

City were ready to cut their losses, with cut-price offers coming in from France, but fair play to Samaras, he opted to stay and stick it out.

Corradi and Dickov went out on loan, Bojinov got injured and Vassell was set to leave too, leaving George to stake his claim in training.

"He took his chance, and I'm very happy for him because he's been very professional after he decided he wanted to stay," said Sven after Samaras' match-winner. "He's been very good in training, he's always stayed positive so congratulations to him."

Sven had so far rotated Bianchi and Mpenza this season, with neither really making the centre-forward spot their own, and with everyone getting a rest for the Norwich game, in came Samaras for his first game under Sven.

There were a couple of encouraging moments from George (although anything would have been an improvement on last season) but he saved the best till last, slotting home after being played in by a superb through-ball by debutant Kelvin Etuhu.

"I was just focused on the ball, but I knew that I would score," said Samaras. "I'd had that feeling before the game so I'm very happy."

Samaras looks a different player, fresh, without the weight of his lofty price tag on his shoulders. And he insists he wasn't motivated by the chance to prove he is Premiership class.

"I'm not trying to prove anything," he said. "I'm just trying to play my own game, help my team to win, improve myself and keep looking forward. I'm very happy that I've played a full game and I hope I get more chances to play.

"I've just been focussing on my football, I've been training hard, I knew that my chance would come and it was up to me to take it. I'll keep going and keep working hard."

With neither Bianchi and Mpenza making themselves a certain selection, Samaras may now just become Sven's main man. Who'd have thought?