City boss Peter Grant today revealed just how desperate Chris Brown is to play on Saturday after the 22-year-old insisted from his hospital bed that he would still be fine for the big kick-off.
With the club officially confirming this morning that it had been victim of a violent sickness outbreak following the club's traditional pre-season barbecue on Sunday – with four senior players among the 30 reported affected – it was an injury of the most traditional kind that was foremost in Grant's mind this morning as he put the final tweaks to his Deepdale battle plans.
A broken nose sustained in last Friday's 1-0 win over Vitesse Arnhem was the last thing Brown needed after his injury-dogged spring and a highly encouraging summer.
Nose reset by the surgeons yesterday, his readiness for Championship battle will be one of the last decisions Grant has to make between now and Saturday.
“Chris Brown had an operation this morning,” said Grant, speaking after last night's pre-season dinner with supporters.
“It wasn't a long operation – obviously it was to reset his nose – but he's very committed to making sure he's available. He's made a few phone calls to me this evening trying not to rule him out, so we'll give him up to the last moment.”
Up until last Friday, Brown's performances had – in fairness – seen him nose ahead in the race for that second striker's berth alongside Jamie Cureton hence Grant's willingness to give him every chance for the weekend.
“I think he deserves that for the way that he's worked through the summer time – he deserves that opportunity to be available for the weekend and he'll get very chance he can possibly get.”
It was, said Grant, a relatively straight-forward procedure.
“I'm glad it's not me going through it, but it wasn't major. Anything that's broken on your face it's obviously worrying, but thankfully he can get it reset reasonably straight – not that it was that straight in the first place!
“But, as I say, he's committed and he's wanting to make up for lost time from his injuries last year and that just shows the commitment of the kid.
“He's more worried about making sure he's available for the weekend than worrying about his nose – and that's the kind of commitment that it's going to take to make us successful in this division.”
At least these days Grant has several alternatives up his sleeve – the obvious one is Czech new-boy David Strihavka, theother is Dion Dublin. The 38-year-old sat out the Arnhem game with back spasms. He, too, appears well on the mend.
“Dion's fine,” confirmed Grant. “He trained on the training pitch today; he never trained with us, but hopefully he'll train Thursday with us but he's done all the rest of the work so I'm comfortable with Dion – that he'll be available come the weekend.”
All of which only left Darren Huckerby. There it was a case of 'Never, say never…' even if the City chief was busily making plans for life without him. For at least this weekend.
“In my own head, I've ruled him out. But you know what Darren's like. His fitness levels are phenomenal anyway so there's no problem that way – it's his game legs that he needs.
“But if I felt I'd lose him for a couple of weeks if I only played him a week early, I wouldn't take that chance.
“And, hopefully, I've got a better squad round him and I don't need to depend on one man.
“There's no doubt about Darren's qualities – he's a match-winner. But, hopefully, I've got a few more players like that now.”
It's whether he adds another one to the pack before this weekend's trip to Preston that is the final $64 million dollar question.
Rumours have abounded for weeks that Grant might have half an eye on a second, Premiership loan in the shape of 19-year-old Manchester United centre-half Ryan Shawcross.
The teenager played 45 minutes in Saturday's trip to Peterborough United and is expected to be involved again tomorrow night in Northern Ireland as a United XI play Glentoran as part of the club's 125th anniversary celebrations.
From a distance, it would appear to be th logical next step for the Chester-born teenager – linked to a loan switch to Barnsley last season.
Having done his time in the Manchester United reserves and completed the increasingly traditional apprenticeship in Belgium with Royal Antwerp, rounding off the boy's education with a taste of real life in the Championship looks to make sense – especially with Bryan Gunn's long-standing 'in' with Sir Alex Ferguson.
Norwich won't be the only club seeking his services; as ever, it remains a long way from his North-West base; there remains a whole host of factors to consider.
So, has Grant got one last trick up his sleeve after such a hectic summer in the transfer market? It is easy to forget that the transfer window has still another three weeks to run – it ain't over yet.
“Have I got one last trick up my sleeve? I hope so – you always hope you've got one,” said Grant.
“At this moment in time, I'm comfortable with the boys that we have and we'll see how we go.
“It's a long time between now and the 31st of August and we're always looking to improve and make us better and, hopefully, I can still do that between now and the 31st of August.”