John Filan, Brian Borrows, Marcus Hall, Kevin Richardson, David Busst, Paul Williams, Gordon Strachan, Paul Telfer, Peter Ndlovu, John Salako and Nii Lamptey. These eleven men were responsible for the last time Coventry City overcame a two-goal deficit to win a league/cup fixture – 25th October 1995 – City 3 Spurs 2 League Cup third round tie. The man listed last on the team sheet may be unknown to younger City supporters but at the age of 16 (1990) he was a first-team regular with Anderlecht and one of the hottest properties in world football. Pele hailed him his ‘natural successor’ and he would score on his European Cup debut for the Belgian giants.
‘Old before his time’ can certainly be applied to Nii Lamptey. He was smuggled to Belgium in the back of trucks, virtually kidnapped, and after two years with Anderlecht shone for PSV Eindhoven (with his Robbie Keane-style goal celebration - see second clip) while collecting international caps for Ghana. He joined City from Aston Villa, signed twice by Ron Atkinson, and his year in sky blue, 1995/96, saw him debut at Anfield. Lamptey scored twice, home and away, against Hull in the Coca-Cola Cup but made just six starts with five substitute appearances before he was released to join Italian side Venezia. His one goal at Highfield Road is in the clip below when he also had his head trod on by a Hull defender who saw red for his slip of foot.
Ron Atkinson recalled how the restrictions on foreign players along with the amount of time he spent away on international duty made it impossible for him to feature regularly. Following his move to Italy, still aged just 22, he became a journeyman, ending up in Argentina, Turkey, Portugal, Belgium, Germany, China, Dubai and then home to Ghana. After scoring on his international debut at 16 he partnered Tony Yeboah and Abedi Pele in a fearsome strike force and went on to collect 38 caps, the last of which came in 1996. He promised so much and his arrival at City was a real coup, it was just a shame it failed to work out for him.
Lamptey himself cited pressure as a big factor: “When Pele said I could go on to become like him it was a great honour for me. To get such high praise from him was wonderful but it had its negative side – everywhere I went I was supposed to live up to very high standards. Once I couldn’t meet people’s expectations I was considered a failure. It’s easy to be a star but it’s difficult to maintain being a star. When I went to Belgium I was alone at a very young age without anybody and it was so difficult.”
He has recently been immortalised by a group of Sky Blues’ supporters – Knowl (gmkonline), Neil Allison (Sky Blues Blog), Joey Crone and Ed Wilson - who have named a podcast after him – ‘The Nii Lamptey Show’ - which you can download on iTunes and follow via twitter @NiiLampteyShow. The audience is growing by the week and the content is excellent, you should take a listen.
N.B. Lamptey's quote and Atkinson's recollection taken from Amy Lawrence's 'Four Four Two' article in 2004.