Abbey makes up for lost time
By Gary Slater
Last Updated: 9:54pm GMT 21/01/2001
Norwich City (1) 1 Queens Park Rangers (0) 0
ZEMA ABBEY, who scored his first goal for Norwich, takes his inspiration from Ian Wright, Les Ferdinand and Kevin Phillips, three strikers who arrived late in the professional game but more than made up for lost time.
It is too early to tell if the 23-year-old Abbey, a sports science and leisure management graduate from Luton University, will follow in the footsteps of those luminaries, but the first impressions are promising.
Nigel Worthington, his manager, is optimistic. "It has been a dramatic rise for him in the past 18 months and he has adapted very well," Worthington said. "He showed, apart from his goal, that there are certain qualities in there that hopefully we can improve on."
Abbey was playing for Hitchin Town in the Ryman League 18 months ago, before Cambridge United gave him his chance in Division Two. He joined Norwich for £350,000 in December.
Abbey said: "It is every footballer's dream to play at the highest level and I am no different. Obviously I have come into the game late but so did Ian Wright, Les Ferdinand and Kevin Phillips so with hard work and learning on the training field you never know."
Abbey is a quicksilver striker and the perfect foil to the muscular presence of Iwan Roberts in the Norwich forward line. The pair combined for the only goal after 32 minutes, Roberts heading the ball back for Abbey to volley home from seven yards.
QPR switched from a 4-4-2 to a 4-3-3 formation at half-time but the damage was already done. They remain the only side in the First Division without an away win this season and stay second from bottom in the table. The battle against relegation is even overshadowing their glamorous FA Cup fourth-round tie against Arsenal on Saturday.
Gerry Francis, the QPR manager, said: "Effort-wise I don't think you can fault them. Quality-wise we let ourselves down a little bit. Nobody is under any illusions. It's going to be a pretty big dogfight at the end."
Abbey, meanwhile, will be in action again tonight when Norwich entertain Celtic in a testimonial for their physiotherapist, Tim Sheppard.