Darren Huckerby's participation in the first game of the season is looking ever more doubtful.
The Canary favourite has been troubled by a niggling groin virtually all summer. Indeed he has yet to step foot onto the pitch.
Last night, as the Canaries rounded off their summer friendly schedule with that 1-0 win over Vitesse Arnhem, Huckerby was again notable by his absence.
And asked the $64 million dollar question afterwards, City boss Peter Grant wasn't offering too much hope on Huckerby being in his starting plans come August 11 and that trip to Preston North End.
“I would have to say at this moment in time, it's very, very doubtful – there's no doubt of that,” said Grant, as Norwich's two-time Player of the Year struggles to reach the starting line.
“As I always say, I never take chances on players – especially players of Darren's quality and the way he plays. Especially with it being a groin.”
There are, it has to be said, one or two favours working in Huckerby's favour. He is, naturally, one of the fittest players around; that not too much rust will have crept into his hyper-active system over the last fortnight.
Even now, there might be a certain kidology floating around with preston boss Paul Simpson who, in every likelihood, will have no idea as to whether or not he has to prepare for the 31-year-old's arrival until he sees the City team-sheet for the first time at a little after 2pm next Saturday.
On the flip-side, Gant is painfully aware of the catastrophic consequences his disappearance with the same groin trouble had on the tottering regime of his predecessor, Nigel Worthington.
He may well have been a camel in trouble with large sections of the City support ahead of that trip to the Ricoh Stadium, Coventry, last autumn, but Huckerby's exit was a whole, big bale of straw that Worthington could have done without.
“He feels much better each day as we go along, but as I say I think it is very, very important that we're careful with that; that we don't rush that.
“So I'd rate him very doubtful. But the most important thing is that we have him over the period of the season – not just for the first couple of weeks of the season.
“I think some people get carried away – you need to get him back, you need to do this, you need to do that,” said Grant, pointing to the fact that in his new, bigger, brighter squad he has alternatives.
That whilst Huckerby is clearly a one-off, his hand is that much stronger than Worthington's this time last year; that if that little hole off the front two has, eventually, Huckerby's name on it, in the meantime both Luke Chadwick and Chris Martin have filled in to decent effect.
The summer break would appear to have done both players the power of good.
“When I lost players last year we couldn't do without them – at times it made the squad look very week. This year I feel the squad is stronger; it's a more rounded squad; it's not as imbalanced.
“But one or two injuries and you could be back to square one again and I'm not going to take that chance.”
Grant was also at pains to praise his two centre-halves – Jason Shackell and Gary Doherty – for their efforts clean-sheet wise. The City chief is all too aware of the clamour for a defensive reinforcement; the 'Come in No5…' debate that has been doing the rounds since the day the shirt numbers were announced.
“People keep telling me that I need defenders here and there and I look at Shackell and Doherty who I think have done very well throughout the campaign. They've played a lot of games those two; they're just getting used to playing again through this period and they've come through it unscathed.”
With Dion Dublin missing last night with a back spasm, Grant remains thin in that department. Next in line in Dublin's absence would, probably, be youngster Michael Spillane.
Little wonder that the rumours of an impending new arrival continue to do the rounds – last night it was the turn of Calum Davenport's name to be thrown the manager's way as the one-time Canary loan arrival struggles to get a game ahead of the likes of Matthew Upson, Anton Ferdinand, Danny Gabbidon and James Collins.
“You're always looking at good players; the transfer window may shut, but as managers and coaches you're always looking for players that can improve you. We're always looking for players that can put pressure on everybody else,” said the City chief, with his two round pegs for every round hole policy not quite there yet at that centre-half position.
“I want a competitive spirit in the team – and at the training ground. I want players to be fighting for their position there too,” added Grant.
“And people like Calum are very, very good players. He's been here before – and that's probably the reason why people are linking him and because West Ham have probably got five other central defenders – but, as I say, we're always looking for good players and he definitely comes into that category.”
In the meantime the likes of Spillane and the two Jarvis brothers – Rossi and Ryan – will get a chance to add to their game-time with a work-out against Dereham Town today; Huckerby will be in for intensive rehab; Grant, Duffy, Gunn and Co will be on the phone – seeing if they can't bolt at least one extra face on to their City side before it all starts in earnest again next Saturday at Deepdale.