City boss Glenn Roeder this weekend dropped a broad hint that all four of his loan chases were heading in “a very positive” direction as the January transfer window began to loom large in everyone's thoughts.
Speaking ahead of yesterday's laboured 1-1 draw with Wolves, Roeder revealed that he was due to have conversations with Chelsea's director of football Frank Arnesen, Manchester City No2 Tord Grip, Newcastle United's under-fire boss Sam Allardyce and Derby County chief Paul Jewell with regard to the futures of Jimmy Smith, Ched Evans, Matty Pattison and Mo Camara respectively.
And while, for now, he had nothing concrete to report, after yesterday's match Roeder gave every impression that the talks were heading in the right direction – with one of the four likely to be pinned down to a full-time switch to Carrow Road.
“There's nothing to say at the moment,” said Roeder, confirming that he had spoken to all four clubs concerned. He was also given an unexpected opportunity to speak to Birmingham City chief executive Karren Brady who used her weekly column in The Sun to announce the fact that City's ?750,000 bid for Martin Taylor was ?250,000 short of their valuation on the 28-year-old centre-half.
Given the last time Ms Brady made a statement regarding Taylor's future she insisted that (a) Norwich had never made a bid and that (b) Roeder would do well not to conduct his transfer business through the pages of a newspaper, the content of her latest Sun column came heavily-laden with irony.
Talking of his four loan stars, Roeder suggested that there would be more to discuss next week when, of course, the transfer window is officially open.
“There's nothing to report at the moment other than that we're in talks and that we're very positive that we'll be able to keep our loan players – and, hopefully, make one of them a permanent signing,” said Roeder, with the strong suspicion being that the full-time deal with be for Pattison.
The terrier-like midfielder was always assumed to have a permanent switch tucked away at the back of his initial loan deal from St James' Park and the player himself has already spoken of his desire to make Norfolk his new home.
“When we have something to say on that as a club, we'll say it,” added Roeder.
The City boss was the first to admit that yesterday's second, successive home draw found his new charges in somewhat stuttering form. There was precious little for yet another festive full house to get excited about for the first hour and it needed the arrival of second-half substitutes Lee Croft and Dion Dublin to open the game up – that and the fact that after Andy Keogh's soft, 52nd minute header, Norwich once again found themselves a goal down and chasing a game.
Once again, to their considerable credit, they found the spirit and the resolve to drag a point out of the game courtesy of Jamie Cureton's eighth goal of the season. Since that fateful trip to Plymouth, City have now lost just once in nine outings – and that to a last minute goal at an in-form Stoke City. Hence Roeder was in no mood to take his troops to task for a lame opening hour.
“A fair result? On the last 20 minutes of the second-half, yes,” said the City boss. “Because although we didn't have the lion's share of the play for the first 70 minutes or so, we had the better chances in the end.”
Cureton would poke a decent chance just wide having jinked and dinked his way into a decent position while Dublin would smash a first-time volley straight at Wayne Hennessey in the Wolves goal. A yard either side and that could have been three more points on the way to mid-table safety.
As it is, City remain two points off the drop zone with a tough trip to Crystal Palace on New Year's Day next on the agenda.
“I was expecting at some stage – and probably sooner rather than later – a performance where we weren't the better team – and, hopefully, we've got it out of the way today,” he said.
“But these players have done so well in the last two months that if we're not careful people will forget where we were two months ago. We had eight points – the boys have put a real shift in to climb to where we are and to gather the amount of points that we have done by the end of the year. So it would be totally wrong if anyone was critical of them.
“We didn't play well, but no-one could accuse them of not putting everything into the performance. And that's all you can ask for at times.”
With a fourth game in ten days looming at Selhurst Park, it is going to take another big 'shift' for the Canaries to keep their unbeaten run going on into the New Year against a Palace side similarly revitalised under Neil Warnock.
“Against Charlton on Boxing Day we were outstanding,” said Roeder. “We wiped Charlton away – other than taking our chances to win the game. Today I'll be the first to admit that if you take the 90 minutes as a whole, we weren't the better team.
“But if you look at clear-cut chances then we probably had one or two more than they had – for all their possession. But they're not machines. You cannot expect them to keep churning out performances that they've done over the last couple of months,” said Roeder, well aware of the big strides his side have already made.
On that background, the odd stumble on what remains a rocky road to survival was inevitable.
“I came into a club where the players were dejected, lacking in confidence, couldn't see where the next win was going to come from – suddenly we've raised the bar of expectancy. But with the absolutely woeful start to the season, it's taken a lot of bottle and a lot of mental strength to come to the last game of the year and find ourselves where we are now.
“It's a tremendous effort – so to be critical of one, very average performance at home and yet to keep a run going of just one defeat in nine games is a tremendous effort by the players and you won't find me criticising them.”