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Paddy Davitt: Ben Godfrey. Take a bow.

PUBLISHED: 13:03 27 November 2019 | UPDATED: 13:03 27 November 2019

Ben Godfrey had to delay hernia surgery to ease Norwich City injury crisis 
Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Ben Godfrey had to delay hernia surgery to ease Norwich City injury crisis Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Paul Chesterton

Christoph Zimmermann was rightly lauded for his Everton comeback in Norwich City's Premier League win, but take a step forward Ben Godfrey.

The German's return to the frontline, weeks ahead of schedule from a serious foot injury, to anchor a clean sheet at Goodison Park was in many respects superlative.

His head coach, Daniel Farke, labelled him an 'unbelievable hero' and the number of team mates who raced to embrace him at the final whistle illustrated the respect he commands within the City dressing room.

But his younger partner has been the one constant through a debilitating series of central defensive injuries.

Lest one forget, Godfrey himself struggled through weeks of pain and limited training before succumbing to a hernia operation during the October international break.

To make the step up from Championship football for a 21-year-old, who this time last year was not even a regular in the starting XI, was a major ask.

To expect him to lead a makeshift backline featuring the likes of Ibrahim Amadou and Alex Tettey who have both been pressed into emergency service went above and beyond.

Inevitably such a heavy responsibility exposed areas of Godfrey's defensive game that require work; particularly as Norwich bumped along the bottom of the division following that epic victory over Manchester City.

But the self-aware England Under-21 international knows better than anyone he is not the finished article. Nor should he be.

He is certainly made of the right stuff, and it is that warrior spirit which appears to bind him and Zimmermann together in the most unlikely of unions.

There were many reasons to laud the German's return on Merseyside but chief among them perhaps, with a nod to the future, is surely a chance for Godfrey to focus on himself and his own game.

That is the least he deserves after going above and beyond the call in the opening months of this campaign.

There was a trio of blocks in the space of a few seconds after the interval last Saturday that showcased his athleticism and his bravery. After one he was hauled to his feet and hugged by his central defensive partner.

You can visibly see the strong bond between two players thrust together at the turn of last season's Championship title-winning surge - through injuries to Grant Hanley and Timm Klose - who have no interest in looking back after grasping the opportunity.

The likes of Teemu Pukki and Emi Buendia were rightly applauded for the brand of thrilling football that swept Norwich to within reach of the Premier League, but there was plenty of games down the stretch when City had to be resolute and resilient.

Millwall, away, in the howling wind and rain when Zimmermann also chipped in with a thumping header in front of the travelling support. Godfrey doing likewise to subdue an obdurate Rotherham.

A tight affair at Middlesbrough settled by Onel Hernandez's slaloming effort, and then a desire to protect Tim Krul at all costs. That is what Norwich have missed in Zimmermann's prolonged absence in the big league.

That is certainly what Godfrey missed, shorn of his senior partner for all bar 20-odd minutes at West Ham in August.

There were plenty of moving parts underpinning what unfolded at Goodison Park.

Todd Cantwell seized his chance after replacing Emi Buendia in the line up. Kenny McLean looked capable of adding a real physical presence aerially allied to his quality on the ball in a more progressive role.

The comfort of Sam Byram at left back or the right blend in front of the back four afforded by pairing Tom Trybull and Tettey in tandem.

But it is hard to escape the sense the catalyst was Zimmermann and Godfrey renewing their vows.

Next up. Arsenal. For all the Gunners' apparent struggles to harness genuine forward momentum under Unai Emery they can still unleash some fearsome attacking power in the form of Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

A duo as good as any in the Premier League on their day.

Zimmermann and Godfrey can expect to be tested again.

But you sense the pair will relish the challenge at Carrow Road on Sunday.

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