City boss Peter Grant today welcomed home summer signing No7 – just as he bid a temporary farewell to signing No7.
On-loan Chelsea youngster Jimmy Smith was ruled out for a ?minimum? of six weeks this lunchtime after both the Canaries and the London giants scanned the 20-year-old's damaged calf for the extent of his pre-season injury.
Given the on-going uncertainty surrounding Youssef Safri's future and the gaping goals-hole left by Dickson Etuhu's exit, the return of Darel Russell in a ?600,000 switch from Stoke City today has a fine, if not acute, sense of timing.
Coincidence or not, Safri didn't feature in today's official team photo shoot. He, you continue to believe, is not likely to be long of this parish.
?Darel's one that I'd spoken about at the end of the season,? said Grant, at this lunchtime's latest unveiling.
?I wanted to find out his situation at Stoke; I knew he had a year left. But at that moment in time, it was more of a tentative enquiry.
?But with the likes of Dickson going, I thought it was very important that we try and replace his goals and Darel's done that.?
It is slightly hard to believe that the one-time City youngster is still only 26-year-old – despite his four-year spell in the Potteries.
But then his Canary career kicked off a a very raw 17-year-old – one that Grant himself looked to help develop when the two teamed up in that Norwich midfield. Both high energy, combative types, you sensed that was one of the key reasons as to why Russell made the return trip – now with 200-odd more Championship games under his belt.
He was also the Championship's player of the month last November – further evidence that he returns to his former haunts as far more of a complete player than when he left after a protracted contract dispute in the summer of 2003.
?He's got vast experience of the division even though he's still only a young man of 25, 26. And I'm sure he's learned from his experience of being away from here.
?It's different when you're brought up here – you're brought up in a certain mode. When you go away, you realise that's when the hard work begins. And he's done that.?
Whether it was simply the fact that Grant and Russell were ex-team-mates, or whether it was his growing Championship maturity that has caught his eye, either way it was clear that the City chief had long been monitoring his progress.
And while he may be some five inches shorter than the departing Etuhu, it is clear that Grant saw Russell as as near a tailor-made replacement as he could find at such relative short notice.
?I played with him here and so I've watched his progress and I think he's now at a stage in his career that he's much more mature as a player, he knows what I'm looking for and I think he can be a big influence on the team.
?Plus the fact that we've now lost Jimmy Smith for a few weeks. That's obviously a big blow for us and Darel then comes right into the fore.?
A few weeks is, it appears, more like the middle of autumn – hence his absence from today's team shot.
?We got a scan done when he got back and that's not been as good as we expected it to be – we think it'll be a minimum of six weeks with Jimmy. As I say, that's a big blow for us.?
Chelsea, too, have had a look. ?We went him back to Chelsea; they've done the exact same as us; they've scanned it. And they were very pleased with the way that we've handled it, but it's a blow to the kid because I thought he was looking fantastic for us and gave us something different.
?But if we've got to wait six weeks to see his quality, then I'm willing to do that,? said Grant, with Smith likely to return to the King's Road for the bulk of his rehab work before being summoned back to Norfolk as and when his fitness allows.
Now, at least, he has an alternative to bolt into that competitive midfield area.
?As I say, Darel will bring goals with him, so you'll lose one and get another one in which I'm very, very pleased at.?
Having yet to play 45 minutes this smmer as Potters boss Tony Pulis appeared to start making plans for life without him, Grant readily admits that Russell now needs game time.
He had 35 minutes against Real Madrid last Friday and could yet get the same again tomorrow night for the visit of West Ham United to Carrow Road – a game that is due to be screened live by Setanta as part of their growing presence in the Premiership.
?Rusty (Russell) may play part of it because he needs games,? said Grant, unlikely to risk Julien Brellier tomorrow even if the Frenchman is now back in full-time training.
?Darel's been doing all his training, now it's just a matter of him getting his football legs.
?Unfortunately at this time, you can't say: 'Right, I've got four or five games to get him his game legs. His game legs will have to come in games like tomorrow evening, so he will play part of tomorrow.?
At which point City fans will get their first glimpse of the 2007 version of D Russell – an arrival prompted more by Etuhu's exit than Smith's injury.
?We'd made tentative enquiries about him last year – and at that moment in time, that's all it was.
?But Jimmy's injury was after we'd made contact,? added Grant. ?But the biggest thing was once I'd spoken to Darel – after we'd been given permission to speak to him – he had that hunger to come back.
?He'd obviously been here before, but I just looked at him and I thought he'd matured as a player since he left here; he's become a bigger person since he left here.
?And that was something that gave me that extra push to go and get him. He's got that hunger to be successful.?