City boss Peter Grant tonight appeared quietly satisfied at Julien Brellier's hour in the spotlight as he puts the finishing touches to his 2007-2008 battle plans.
As promised the 25-year-old Frenchman, absent for the last fortnight with a slight thigh strain, started this evening's 1-0 win over Vitesse Arnhem and produced a neat and tidy display in a decently balanced three-man midfield that featured Darel Russell to his right, Simon Lappin to his left.
From that platform a three-man strike force was then encouraged to pull the Dutch visitors this way and that; teenager Chris Martin given the most freedom to roam as he dropped into that little hole behind Jamie Cureton and Chris Brown.
Whether that same 4-3-3 formation will be rolled out at Deepdale in eight days time will be one interesting point; whether it is David Strihavka or Brown another; where Luke Chadwick might fit another.
One thing, however, looks fixed in Grant's mind – that Brellier will be his midfield hub; from that base, all else will follow.
“I think he gives us something different,” said Grant, as Adam Drury's 60th minute curler gave the Canaries the win.
“And I think you've seen that early in the game – he reads things well. He got a little bit tired just before half-time, a bit sloppy with a back pass to Adam but we expected that of him – it's difficult going into games when you've not played.”
On a first sighting, Brellier is a taller presence than the departed Youssef Safri; generally looked unhurried on the ball; was solid in the challenge.
“You can see his awareness; how he breaks things up; keeps it simple,” added Grant. “He doesn't take any chances. He's one of these ones that if it's going to drop in the final third and it's a defensive clearance, he will clear it.
“He won't try and be clever and I think that he adds to what we've got here. Most of the other boys like to go forward; he's more comfortable breaking things up and sniffing the dangers out and I think he'll do that very well for us when he's fully fit.”
That particular cause was not helped by a dead-leg sustained in the first-half which left the Frenchman limping. Given that was the site of his original injury, it gave Grant a moment or two of concern.
He is, however, confident that Brellier will be fine for Deepdale next weekend where Kevin Nicholls lies in wait. Those two could produce some real fireworks.
“He got a knee in the thigh as the goalkeeper's come out and it's given him a dead leg and that's obviously given us a wee bit of a concern because it was round about the thigh that he had the injury,” said Grant.
“But the psychological thing was not taking him off at half-time and giving him those extra ten minutes so that he knew there wasn't a problem with his injury – and he's very comfortable with it so it's just a matter of assessing him over the next few days.
“Yes, it'll be sore but he'll be fine for next week.”
The sponsors man of the match was Jon Otsemobor who produced another strong and competitive outing at right-back; one, surging over-lap with Cureton deserved better than for his driven, low cross to whizz untouched through the Arnhem six-yard box.
Likewise David Marshall carried on where he left off on Tuesday night with a clutch of decent saves – the best a stretching, one-handed tip onto his right-hand post following a Vitesse corner deep in the second-half.
The principal casualty of the night, however, was the luckless Brown who, after starting the game ahead of Strihavka, found his nose somewhere round by his ear after bravely challenging the Vitesse keeper for a second-half corner.
There, said Grant, was the difference from last year. That as Brown disappeared down the tunnel with his nose broken and bleeding, it was the leading scorer from Czech Premier League replacing him – not Kris Renton.
“All of a sudden Chris Brown comes off and last year we'd be looking at kids,” said the City chief.
“This year we've got David Strihavka coming on for Chris Brown – that's where it feels a wee bit more different around the group. That's the positive – knowing that these guys are fighting for eachother's position.”
So Strihavka could have 'nosed' ahead tonight in that race for a start a Deepdale – and all thanks to Brown's bravery.
“We don't know on that one,” said Grant, quizzed as to the seriousness of Brown's injury.
“It's not going to make him any uglier, that's for sure! The one thing is that he's done fantastically well for himself; he got in the box a lot tonight and we'd said to him he has to be more ruthless in the box and sometimes you get a bang in the nose.
“And strikers have to do that – especially people like him. But, hopefully, that's not going to keep him out,” said Grant.
“And, as I say, it gives you food for thought. David comes on tonight and looks a bit sharper, a bit brighter and we can see the quality that he has.
“So the one thing that I wanted at the end of the pre-season campaign was to have a problem going into next week as to what team to select and, hopefully, that's the way that it is going to turn out.”
Because now it is real. From here on in, all eyes turn to the start of the real thing away at Preston North End in eight days time.
“The season starts now. That's it – ready to kick-off…”