Julien Brellier – Norwich's very own International Man of Mystery – will again be missing this evening as the Canaries take their pre-season preparations up another level by playing host to Premiership West Ham United.
Brellier has played just 45 minutes this summer away at King's Lynn and was left a spectator in Holland after picking up a thigh strain against the Linnets.
Though the one-time Hearts enforcer has now resumed full-time training, City boss Peter Grant is clearly intent on wrapping 'The Judge' up in cotton wool between now and that trip to Deepdale on August 11 – a policy that he is equally determined to apply to Darren Huckerby with his niggling groin strain.
Both will miss tonight's first dress rehearsal, as in every likelihood will Simon Lappin who is also carrying a slight thigh strain.
Coping with such summer niggles and knocks has, says Grant, taken a little of the gloss off tonight's events – a game rich in reunions as the Canary chief bumps into his former employers for the first time since his leap onto the managerial ladder last autumn, while such ex-City luminaries as Craig Bellamy, Dean Ashton and Robert Green could all feature on the evening's guest list.
“I'm really looking forward to it,” said Grant, speaking at yesterday's unveiling of Darel Russell – signing No8 of the summer.
“They'll be looking to play well because they're coming to that stage when they'll be looking to make their main selection. Unfortunately for us we're carrying a few injuries and that's probably the only downside of it for me because I won't be taking chances on certain individuals.
“The most important thing about pre-season for me is making sure that you've got 11 available for the 11th. To do that, if it means that I won't take chances for tonight's game then I will do that.”
At which point it was time for the latest casualty list. Jimmy Smith tops that with his six week absence through the nasty calf injury sustained in City's final tour game in Holland last week. The 20-year-old on-loan Chelsea midfielder has already returned to London to begin his rehab, so for the next couple of months there will be a little out of sight, out of mind going on.
Huckerby, however, is rarely out of sight at Colney and is rarely out of anyone's mind; he is currently layered in cotton wool and may well not even figure in Friady night's UEFA Cup reunion with Vitesse Arnhem.
“Hucks won't play; at this moment in time, its 99 per cent certain that Simon Lappin won't play – so that's a blow. Just for the balance more than anything else,” said Grant, with a situation vacant for a natural, left-sided threat in the absence of both Huckerby and Lappin. The versatile Luke Chadwick or, indeed, Chris Martin, could give new Hammers skipper Lucas Neill something to think about in their absence.
Likewise, new-boy Russell has barely got a full 45 minutes of pre-season football under his belt this summer; again, a case of of re-introducing the 26-year-old gently into game-time.
It is Brellier's reappearance that is attracting the most interest. He is, you have long sensed, expected to be central to Grant/Duffy's plans for 2007-2008.
“He's back training now. He'll join in with us tomorrow (Tuesday) but I'm not going to take a chance on him – I maybe give him part of the game on Friday,” said Grant.
“But he's a fit lad, anyway. So it's just the game-time that he's missed out on. Over the course of the week I'm sure he'll be back in full training and it's just a case of managing it now and making sure that given he's going to play a big part for us, he doesn't break down.”
Such inconvenient knocks and niggles come, says Grant, with the territory.
“Sometimes you can't get working with other players because of aches and strains which you can't do much about because pre-season is a working time – you do play games and you do train completely differently. We have been working them very hard and sometimes you do get tired legs and aches and strains because of it. That's why I'd rather them miss one, two weeks rather than three, four, five weeks.”
Otherwise, Grant was quietly delighted with the way that pre-season has unfolded – Dickson Etuhu's unscheduled exit apart.
“All in all, I've been very pleased with it. We've got the new boys in; we've got hungry boys in and the age of the squad is very, very good age. A ripe age.
“You've got Dion at one end; you've got the younger boys and that middle age – and I think we look tougher,” said Grant, with the summer bringing a whole clutch of 24, 25 and 26-year-olds into the building.
“They're guys with vast experience – like that that Darel (Russell) brings even at 25, 26. I think when we've got everyone in the group fully fit and raring to go, we will be very competitive in this league – that's for sure.”