Safri: Play me or I'll quit

CHRIS LAKEY Youssef Safri says he will quit Norwich City if he can't convince manager Peter Grant to give him a regular starting place. The popular Canaries midfielder has been in and out of the team since Grant arrived in October, and, while both parties deny a rift, it is clear that Safri has fallen out of favour.

CHRIS LAKEY

Youssef Safri says he will quit Norwich City if he can't convince manager Peter Grant to give him a regular starting place.

The popular Canaries midfielder has been in and out of the team since Grant arrived in October, and, while both parties deny a rift, it is clear that Safri has fallen out of favour.

The news will be met with dismay by City fans who have taken Safri to their hearts since he joined the club in the summer of 2004.


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But the player - who will be 30 next week - insists that the current situation is “destroying” his career.

“To be honest if it stays the same I think I have to look for somewhere to play because I think if I stay on the bench for a long, long time my career is going to be destroyed,” said Safri.

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“If it is going to be like that for a long, long time I think I have to go somewhere.”

Safri's future came under the spotlight just less than a fortnight into Grant's reign, when he was hauled off just 35 minutes into the Carling Cup match at Port Vale: since then he has completed just two full outings for the Canaries, the victories over West Brom and Sunderland.

Eyebrows were raised on Boxing Day when, after a 30-minute appearance against Southend he threw his shirt into the crowd as he left the Carrow Road pitch - although yesterday he said it was intended simply as a gift for a young spectator.

Safri's name had been chanted at half-time as City struggled to score against the Championship's bottom club and he was greeted with thjer biggest cheer of the day when he came on for Carl Robinson.

Ironically, it is the suspended Robinson who Safri will almost certainly replace in the City line-up tomorrow, at home to Queen's Park Rangers.

“It is a good opportunity, but I don't think I should wait for anybody to get injured or be booked so I can play because I know my level and I am looking forward for Saturday if I am playing,” he said.

“I am feeling fit and feeling good as well. I feel I can play at any time, I am ready for any chance.

“I was really pleased with the reaction of the fans and the players and from the staff after Southend. After the game they said I had done well and everybody was happy with me and I was pleased with myself because I know the work I have done.

“I don't think anyone can have this reception from the fans so it was really good for me. It was the best I have ever had in my career.

“I know it is a really, really hard time for me because I never ever been on the bench for such a long, long time in my career until now.

“I can understand the situation from the manager because maybe sometimes he plays 3-5-2 or 4-4-2 so maybe I am not involved in his tactics. But I like to play every game and I hope I can play every game as well. I don't like to stay on the bench.

“Any player in the world must play a lot of games. I want to be fit. I am not one of those players who needs only money and will be happy. I came here to play football and that is why the fans cheer my name. They like me when I am playing and thank God about that because I am really happy about that. That's why when I go out there I want to give more than 100pc for everyone, for the team for the fans for myself as well.”

Safri says he has not spoken to Grant about his situation, and insists he is not about to demand a move.

“I know it would be hard to say it but I would say, especially to the fans, because I am not going to hurt them,” he said. “I am not going to be cheating on them. If I want to leave I will leave - at the moment I am not. I am a Norwich City footballer player.”

How long that continues to be the case is debatable.

“I don't know how long this is going to take,” said Safri. “I think if I play well on Saturday maybe I will keep my place.

“I don't know yet, that's one of the reasons I don't know how long it will continue like that. But definitely, I can repeat, I can understand the decision from the manager not to play me in a lot of games and it depends on the situation in the team, which formation he wants to play.

“But I am Youssef Safri as well. I want to play every game for everyone. I don't think anyone in the world can have such a reception from the fans - that's why I am here, honestly.”

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