City boss Peter Grant's summer recruitment drive took another interesting turn this morning after the Canaries were strongly linked with a possible swoop for Leicester City marksman Matty Fryatt.
According to newspaper reports, the Canaries are battling Watford for the signature of the former Walsall striker ? who has found the net 10 times in Foxes colours during an 18-month spell.
In truth, it is not a goal record that will have Championship defenders quaking in their boots but he has found life tough at the Walkers Stadium, often being introduced as a substitute.
However, Fryatt was due to play his first pre-season match last night against Partick Thistle at Firhill.
“Matty has been patient and deserves the chance to show what he can do,” said Foxes boss Martin Allen before the encounter.
He was the subject of interest from Wolverhampton Wanderers earlier in the summer and it was in the West Midlands, with the Saddlers, where he made scouts and managers alike sit up and notice; he notched 30 goals in 55 starts and was the subject of much speculation before he clinched his big-money move to Leicester.
What comes as the biggest surprise, however, is that Grant seems to be still in the market for a front-man.
With 6ft 3 Czech forward David Strihavka already in, Jamie Cureton settling back into Norfolk life like he's never been away and the two Chris' – Brown and Martin ? enjoying a fruitful pre-season so far, most thought that City's spending in this area was done and dusted.
Add the fact that Messrs Dublin and Huckerby are equally at home up top as opposed to their defensive and left-ish roles and Grant has some real options in there.
Oh yeah, don't forget Ryan Jarvis as well, although it would be easy to do so. It seems like an age since we last saw him in Canary colours.
Fryatt doesn't seem to be the only name on Grant's radar though.
A certain D Riordan seems to have cropped up in conversation again; the Canaries were strongly linked with him during the January transfer window but even though the City chief rates the Celtic man highly, he has ruled out making another swoop on his former club – although he admits that his summer spending is far from over.
Ex-Hibs star Riordan has been unable to secure a regular place in his first year at Celtic and has admitted his frustration at his lack of first-team opportunities, but he won't be Carrow Road bound ? for now.
“Derek is a top quality player,” admitted Grant.
“He is probably the best finisher at Celtic, but what position does he play?
“I don't really know if he is a striker, a second striker or if he's best wide of a three. His quality is without doubt, but the structure in my team is the reason I won't go for him.
“But we're still looking to get players in. We're making a lot of inquiries to see what's out there and hopefully we'll have something in the next couple of weeks. We'll keep knocking at the door and see if anything comes of it.”
Meanwhile, Watford have confirmed they are in talks with City first-team coach Martin Hunter, as hinted by Grant at the weekend.
Whilst the Hornets official website admits that the deal to bring Hunter to Vicarage Road is not yet complete, it would be a major surprise if he did not end up in Hertfordshire.
It seems he has burnt all his bridges in Norfolk after Grant voiced his displeasure at the timing and nature of his imminent departure and his switch to Watford should go through ? barring any major hitches ? in a matter of days.
Where this leaves ex-City favourite Malky Mackay is yet to be seen. The Scotland defender is currently the Hornets' player-coach but has been mentioned in some quarters as a possible replacement for Hunter at Carrow Road.
It would certainly be a popular appointment in these parts, Malky was a much-loved figure with fans and players alike but reading between the lines, there still seems to be a place for Mackay at Vicarage Road.
“Boothroyd has been seeking another coach to work with the first team allowing Dick Bate to concentrate on his role as Technical Director in developing the under 24s.
“The gaffer also has Malky Mackay to assist with coaching as he is currently in a transitional year as a player-coach,” their official site proclaimed.
Read into that what you will?
Scratch the surface of Peter Grant and right now he still bleeds Dickson Etuhu.
The exit of the Canary powerhouse to Sunderland in the second of this summer's controversial, 'get-out' clause deals left Grant feeling very raw. He had big plans for the big man – plans that, it now appears, also included the appearance of Jimmy Smith in City's midst.
The 20-year-old Chelsea youngster was always in the manager's mind; he was not a rushed-in replacement for the departing Etuhu.
“If he'd have been here, I'd have looked about this group and what we have here and I'd be thinking to myself: 'Yeh, we'll be there or thereabouts,” said Grant, fresh from presiding over another morning training session on the club's pre-season tour to Holland.
What is interesting talking to Grant is where his transfer priorities now lie in the wake of Etuhu's exit; that had he stayed firmly put, the City chief clearly believes that he would have had a little bit of everything in that midfield mix. Now he has a sheer physical presence to replace; something that Mother Nature never designed Smith to do. On first impressions, the 20-year-old looks like Jody Morris – minus a fire extinguisher.
“We'd still be looking to bring one or two in if he was still here – now that's changed a little bit,” said Grant, who has long ruled out further additions to his strike department. It's what tweaks he makes further back that is now of interest; that vacant No5 shirt still lurks in the background, as does a potential Etuhu replacement. He did, after all, bring seven goals to the party last season – as well as that 6ft 3in frame.
“Now, perhaps, we have to have a little different thought process in the middle of the pitch to make up for that – because we still need goals from that area of the pitch,” said Grant, left to mix and match the rest of his midfield options now that the No1 certainty belongs to Roy Keane.
“We've brought young Jimmy in who looks terrific at doing that and we're still looking at one or two other aspects of it; the small parts that Julien Brellier has taken part in, you can hear the other players talking and they can see the quality he has; Safri's come back and looking excellent; he's looking sharp; Fotheringham's been first class and he's obviously champing at the bit to put his claim down in the central midfield area.”
None, however, bring what Dickson did to the party. And as much as one or two punters may remain wholly unconvinced about Etuhu's efforts or abilities, Keane clearly saw something in him – and he wasn't exactly the worst midfield player in the world.
What Grant saw was a player who covered yards and yards of ground in the Canary cause – in those huge, green acres that invariably opened up between Safri sat back in front on the Norwich back four and Darren Huckerby doing his usual 'left-ish' thing.
“People were very critical of Dickson last year and I thought he was terrific for us. And I think if you looked at the balance of the team, if you played with Safs in the middle and Hucks on the left – and no disrespect to those two – but Safs wants to get on the ball and Hucks wants that freedon to go express himself,” said Grant.
“So Dickson would run into the box, but then he'd have to recover to outside left, then he'd have to cover to the centre of the pitch, then he'd get the ball, then he'd need to get back into the ball again – so there was a lot of work put on him.
“So even if Dickson was still here, even though I'd brought Julien in I'd have still been looking to bring another one in; I'd be looking at Jimmy – because I felt we'd need someone to give him a breather in the middle of the pitch and then they'd be looking forward trying to get goals. And Jimmy brings that to us.”
Ergo, Jimmy Smith is no longer Etuhu's apprentice, he needs to be the wizard himself. Hence why you sense Grant still feels one body short in midfield.
“We're maybe two players short of where I'd feel comfortable – where if I got two players in in certain positions, then I could change the system with the players I have on the pitch, without making a substitution, and I think that's what makes you a better team.”
Digging out another potential 'free' diamond Brellier-style is Grant's next quest. “We're getting together a group of players that we can afford to bring in, but are still quality and to do that you've got to have your finger on the pulse on what's out there and what's available – like Julien Brellier.
“We'd watched him last season; I knew there were the likes of Rangers and that very much interested in him and all of a sudden, we come in and he signs a contract. But everyone thinks that because he's on a Bosman, he's a poor player. And you know that's not the case – there's a lot of Bosman players about that you think that if I can balance him into the team, then we've got a chance.
“That's part of the game now – you've got to be out there and seeing everything that's available. And if you can get them on a Bosman, then sometimes you can give them more money financially.”
myfootballwriter's pre-season tour is sponsored by aggbag.co.uk
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