Chris Lakey: The strange case of Nelson Oliveira... where did it all go wrong?
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Do you sometimes put an asterisk against football fixtures to denote 'something special' – and then forget what it's there for?
I have one against Saturday's Norwich City game against Nottingham Forest and the word NO, written next to it.
No, I won't be going.
No, I don't think City will lose.
No, I wouldn't put money on it if I were you.
It took a while to solve, but the penny eventually dropped. NO stands for Nelson Oliveira. Why was it there? Simple: because I thought there would be every chance the striker would be playing against the Canaries on Saturday afternoon – and the asterisk was to remind me to write a piece asking the question, 'what on earth happened with Nelson Oliveira?'. Instead, the question is, 'what the hell has happened to Nelson Oliveira?'
Oliveira's days as a City player have been numbered for quite some time, probably back to the opening day of last season when he infamously waved his shirt in the general direction of head coach Daniel Farke, having come on as a sub and scored a late goal which earned City a point. It was a bit of an 'up yours, Daniel' moment. Clearly, that is not the sort of thing you should do, but Farke still started him 26 times in the Championship that season when the Portuguese bagged a total of eight goals. But we haven't seen him since the final day tonking at Sheffield Wednesday. Not even on tour in the summer.
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The only time you will have seen Oliveira in a City shirt is if you follow City's Under-23s.
His absence from the summer tour to Germany was explained this way by Farke: 'Nelson is part of our group and we just decided not to have him with us.
'We want to build a togetherness in this group and bring them tightly together.'
For a man who speaks a lot of sense, that was an unfortunate explanation, to say the least. Part of the group, but best not to let him into the group. Very strange.
Anyway, he didn't feature at all and continues not to feature.
I am going to take a punt here, but let's say (and I have zero knowledge if this is anywhere near the mark or not) he is on £8,000 a week. Since the Sheffield Wednesday game he will have collected 24 weeks' salary, which is £192,000. Or, in normal person's terms, a shedload of money.
Is he really that badly ostracised that he cannot be considered for a game. At all. Even as a possible, given Teemu Pukki's short-term injury absence?
What we mustn't forget is that, if you take Pukki out of the equation, then the next highest scorer has two goals.
By coincidence, by this time of the season a year ago, Oliveira had also scored five goals.
We are, quite rightly, banging on about Pukki, but is Oliveira a spent force? We all assume it is a question of attitude because we see his body language on the field as suddenly there are 25,000 experts who translate it as 'don't give a stuff'. Suddenly we all know the problem. But is that the case?
Twelve months ago Oliveira was the bee's knees. Now we wouldn't recognise him in the street.
What is curious as well as is that City were unable to get him out on loan (which is where the aforementioned Forest link came to mind). Is it the money, or is attitude really an issue? Can it not be solved, is it irretrievable?
I know Oliveira perhaps doesn't tick all the boxes for a Norwich City player, but he has experience, he has ability - you don't get into the Portugal squad if you're a muppet – and he has goals on his CV.
For many it will be a reminder of the strange case of Luciano Becchio, a proven goalscorer who couldn't get a kick here.
Oliveira being sidelined in this way, through whatever reason, is simply a terrible waste. A waste of talent, a waste of goals, a waste of a chunk of his career and a waste of money.
None of which you'd think Norwich City could afford.
I hate it when players score against former clubs and then don't celebrate.
It's an insult to their own fans and has become something of an affectation among players.
So it was good to hear Posh striker Matt Godden's words after he scored both goals in a 2-0 win at Scunthorpe, where his career began: 'I had mixed feelings about scoring against a club that did well for me, but I was always going to celebrate. If I'd played about 200 games for them it might have been different, but I don't see why strikers wouldn't celebrate after doing their job well.'
This afternoon, City could come face to face with Lewis Grabban, who scored twice in a 3-1 Sunderland win at Carrow Road last August. If he scores today, he will celebrate, no doubt about that. Grabban never really won over the fans at Norwich, even though he scoring record was one every other start. He scored a winner at Portman Road, and another in a 2-0 home win over the old enemy.
Don't give him the chance...
Wembley solved – QED
I have an O-level in economics but have never been much cop at that sort of thing.
But in the wake of the non-sale of Wembley to Fulham owner Shahid Khan I thought I'd have a little go at some financial deduction.
Many are complaining that the FA's reluctance will rob the grassroots game of £600m in funding.
But look at it another way: in April it was reported that Premier League clubs paid agents £211m in the previous year.
Agents charge a lot because their players earn a lot. And the players earn a lot because their clubs receive a lot of money from TV companies. And the TV companies do that because they charge millions of people lots of money to watch Premier League football.
So, how about slicing a bit off each level of the cake and putting that into grassroots football each year?
That way, youngsters can still dream of playing at the home of football, not on a rented pitch.