City boss Peter Grant was presiding over a full-blown, grade one, gold-plated injury crisis at Colney this morning after the mid-week trip to Spotland took a hefty toll on his playing resources.
His No1 concern revolved around Jason Shackell's ankle which took the full force of a Julien Brellier tackle in the penalty shoot-out success against Rochdale.
After that and a combination of knocks, illness and “everything” in the case of 38-year-old Dion Dublin ensured that Shackell, Dublin, Brellier, Darren Huckerby, Adam Drury, Ian Murray and David Strihavka were all big doubts ahead of Saturday's home clash with Cardiff City.
And nor was the hard-pressed City boss pinning too much hope on the final 36 hours of the summer transfer window yielding much by way of reinforcements – calls would go in, he said, but the impression still remained that fresh faces and new bodies would have to wait until the September loan market opened for business.
Until then, every man still standing was in contention for Cardiff on Saturday with Grant not expecting to be in a position to name his side until that lunchtime.
“It's easier to tell you the ones that are not,” said Grant, as he fielded the traditional bumps and knocks enquiry at Colney this morning with a wry and resigned smile on his face.
The summer and the start of the new season has brought little by way of a change injury-wise. Mark Fotheringham and Jimmy Smith have already disappeared; Shackell's ankle problem sounded more than a knock.
“Nothing surprising – that just seems the way that it's been,” said Grant. “We don't seem to get a wee break in that respect, but we just have to get on with it.”
Given the scrutiny that has followed his centre-half pairing this summer, news of Shackell's injury is the last thing Grant needs – particularly given the fact that two of his possible alternatives – Dublin and the luckless Murray – were also stood outside Neal Reynolds' door this morning.
If this afternoon's frantic round of phone calls doesn't bear any fruit and neither Dublin nor Murray recover in time, then it could be Michael Spillane who keeps Robbie Fowler company this weekend.
“I don't want to say too much on that now, to be perfectly honest with you till we know for 100 per cent but it doesn't look too good,” said Grant, quizzed on the seriousness of Shackell's injury.
The fact that Brellier managed to pick out his sore ankle summed up Norwich's current misfortunes.
“Believe it or not, I think it's when Julien's won the tackle – and I think he's caught Jason as well. That's what it looks like when I watched the video on the way back down on the bus.
“And he'd landed awkwardly in the first-half – and then he got the knock on it in the second. Sod's Law – wherever you get an injury, that's where you end up getting hit again. But that's the nature of it right now – we've just got to dig in deep.”
Dublin? “Everything,” was the manager's response, as he managed to keep a sense of humour intact. “He got a few bumps and bruises the big man. But because of the situation we will, genuinely, have to leave it till the last minute.”
Huckerby, he admitted, was never designed to play the full two hours on Tuesday night. But once the Murray situation developed and Huckerby himself insisted he was fine to carry on, so the manager's original safety-first plan went out of the window.
“I only wanted to play him 45 minutes,” said Grant. “But unfortunately the situation that Ian was in, I had to take him off. And then I had to play Simon (Lappin) back and then had to play Hucks because Shackell was struggling and Dublin was struggling. And there were a couple of others too…”
Brellier principal among them as he started to stiffen up. “Especially in that position where we're already light, I can't have another central midfield player going down – it'd be absolutely crazy to do that.”
With hindsight, Grant might have been tempted to keep the sickening Murray out of the fray.
“I shouldn't have played him,” admitted the City chief. “When you've got to isolate him when you get to the hotel, you know that's not a great sign. But the boy just wanted to play.
“He's desperate to play; he's just come to the club; he wants to play,” added Grant, convinced that he needed more, left-sided bodies to support Huckerby's return to duty. Lappin and Murray were there to spare Huckerby's legs – in the end, it was Huckerby's legs doing the work as Murray's legs gave way.
“It was more for Hucks, really. More for Hucks. And I shouldn't have done that.”
The long haul back from Rochdale didn't help, said Grant. “Half of them walked back because they were walking up and down the bus all the time,” said the City chief, as fast-stiffening limbs didn't take too kindly to a 4am return on the back of two hours of cup football.
“We know it's part of football, but we'd just like a little run…. since last October it's been quite incredible the injuries we're sustaining.
“And it's all contact injuries – it's not as if you're questioning whether you're doing something wrong in training; too much intensity or whatever. When it's contact injuries, that's when it becomes that much more frustrating.”
He was, he said, expecting maybe no more than “two or three” of that casualty list to make Saturday's date with the Bluebirds – Cureton and Drury looked the most likely; Dublin has a habit of shaking off his inevitable stiffness just in time.
“Hopefully Drury – he did a bit yesterday; hopefully Cureton will train. So they're the positives.”
He will hit the phones again, but more in hope than expectation.
“You make a lot of phone calls – that's what you do. But, yet again, I think a lot of people are not 100 per cent sure or – as I've said to you before – they're waiting to see if someone will purchase or buy,” said Grant.
“And I'm loathe to buy just for the sake of buying for one game or two games. Just take someone for the sake of it. But we'll make some more phone calls this afternoon.”