City loan starlet Jimmy Smith this morning repeated his hope for an extended tour of duty in Norfolk whilst equally admitting that the African Cup of Nations could scupper his best-laid plans.
In theory, tomorrow's home clash with Wolves is due to be the 20-year-old's last in Norwich colours before he is hauled back to Stamford Bridge to act as cover for the likes of John Obi Mikel and Michael Essien who, alongside Didier Drogba, are about to down their club tools for up to six weeks and head home to Africa for the 2008 Cup of Nations tournament.
Smith, however, knows that the likelihood of him figuring large in Avram Grant's plans are slim – particularly now that German international skipper Michael Ballack appears to have shrugged off his long-standing injury troubles and made a goal-scoring re-appearance at the Bridge in this weekend's remarkable 4-4 draw with Aston Villa.
Given that Grant also has the likes of Frank Lampard, Stevie Sidwell and Claude Makelele at his disposal, then you suspect a return to Chelsea reserves awaits Smith – something he is clearly loathe to avoid.
“Hopefully the Wolves game won't be my last – I've enjoyed my time here,” said the Chelsea reserve skipper, his half season-long loan coming to an end. And just when he was starting to make a mark, too.
“I've been getting in the starting eleven recently and I would like to stay here – it's a big club, we're getting our form back now and we're pushing up the table. So, like I say, I'd like to stay here.”
As would City boss Glenn Roeder, who has clearly been mulling over the midfield options available to Grant – African Cup of Nations or no African Cup of Nations. Even then, there is still the small matter of Roman Abramovich's millions to ponder.
“How close do you think Jimmy Smith is to their expectations?” Roeder asked, quizzed himself as to his thoughts on Chelsea's next move in the loan transfer market.
'Let the kid learn his trade with me, Frank….” would appear to be Roeder's 'pitch' to one of his many footballing pals, Chelsea's director of football Frank Arnesen.
“In my opinion, I can only see the benefit for Chelsea of leaving Jimmy Smith with us,” said Roeder, his quest to bag all four of his current loan signings on longer deals now in full swing.
“Jimmy is such a young player that I can't see Avran Grant asking for some extra money in the window and Abramovich saying: 'Well, hang on a minute… can't you get Jimmy Smith back from Norwich?' And that's not being detrimental to Jimmy.”
Cue the Arnesen phone call this afternoon.
“I know Frank Arnesen well – he's excellent at dealing with young players – and he will know that Jimmy Smith being in and around the first team at Norwich is a hundred times better than playing with Cheslea's reserves which is kids football now. It's got an average age of about 18 or 19. That being so, I'd like to think that he'll let him stay.”
Roeder is the first to admit that he has yet to let the youngster rip in his more favoured position – central midfield.
“He might be playing out of position at the moment, but on Saturday I actually thought he did well. And we will see him at his best when we play him through the central of the midfield.
“But, just at the moment, he's learning his trade at Championship football slightly out of position. And playing for us has got to be better than playing for Chelsea reserves.”
A thought that has clearly crossed the player's mind after his summer switch threatened to end before it had barely begun with the fractured foot he sustained on the pre-season tour to Holland.
“I was disappointed at the beginning when I fractured my foot, but I'm back now stronger and I just want to prove myself,” said Smith.
“I just want to keep working hard, training hard and trying to impress the gaffer – because that's all I want to do really, just keep playing football.”
The fact that the opportunity to do just that in Norfolk comes with 24,000 supporters attached merely adds to the attraction of staying put. Probably rather more fun than turning out at Kingstonian FC for Chelsea Reserves in front of one man and his proverbial dog.
“Apparently they still want me to come back because of the African Nations,” said the Londoner. “And I think that the new manager wants to see me.
“But that's the whole point – I don't want to be going back to play in the reserves. I've gone on loan twice now – to QPR last year and this year Norwich – and I just want to be playing in front of the big crowds.
“Like at Carrow Road – you can't ask any more with 25,000 coming every week. Good, loyal fans like that you want to be playing in front of them every week.”
All of which could make this afternoon's conversation interesting if the player himself gets a chance to stick his oar in.
“I think things will be sorted out quite soon, so we'll see what happens,” he said.
And then, who knows? He might even get a chance in the middle.
“That's what I've always said – that I'd like to play in centre midfield. But it's down to me to impress the gaffer in training and he'll put me in on Saturday.
“But at the moment I'm doing a job on the right side – I know I'm doing a job for the manager and the team there and I'm happy to do that.”