City boss Peter Grant this morning steadfastly refused to be drawn into revealing just who might not have the stomach for the fight at Deepdale on Saturday as BBQ-gate continued to leave a sickly smell over his best-laid pre-season plans.
The Sun this morning suggested that the likes of Jamie Cureton, Chris Martin and Jon Otsemobor were among the 30-plus members of Canary staff and their families struck down by the mystery sickness outbreak following the club's traditional pre-season barbecue on Sunday.
Grant refused to give his opposite number at Preston North End, Paul Simpson, any clue as to who may have been laid low of late. He did, however, reveal that its lingering effects would be felt this weekend – not least for the possibility of spreading the illness further in the close confines of a coach, a hotel and a Deepdale dressing room.
Suddenly the usual opening question of 'Bumps and knocks?' had a third partner in crime as Grant answered the 'Bumps, knocks and bugs?' question with clear frustration that all his cotton wool treatment had not spared his squad from being ravaged by a mystery illness.
“Can I tell you who is affected? No.” Any reason? “Yes – because I'm not telling Preston,” said Grant at Colney this morning.
“There's been a few affected,” he added. “At this moment in time, we'll just have to wait and see. I've got to give everyone a chance, but it's obviously difficult for the ones that have been involved because you know what it's like if you have a bug – it takes you a few days to recover.”
Once again, football had managed to slap him smack in the chops just when he was least expecting it. He'd started the week – indeed, trained on Monday – expecting to go to Preston for the opening game of the season with just Darren Huckerby and Chelsea youngster Jimmy Smith missing. Not a bad return from a hard-working summer by City's usual standards. Now, however, normal service has been resumed.
“You just get immune to it, to be honest, after all the injuries we had last year,” said the City boss, as he prepared to embark on his first, full season in charge at Carrow Road.
“As I said, going into the 11th of August you want everybody available. Yes, you're disappointed – for sure. But a situation like this is out of your hands. It was completely out of the blue, but these things are set to try you. And that's one thing that is for sure – this job definitely tries you.
“And I'm just disappointed for the guys that have worked so hard since they've come back,” added Grant, now left with a very difficult decision as to the team's travel arrangements for the weekend. Who does he risk?
“It's different if it was an injury – you can put a time on it. But it depends on what sort of bug it is – it could be 24 hours, 48 hours. I just don't know. I'm not medically attuned to everything that goes on in the body. And some guys will recover quicker than others.
“But I've got to make sure that I've got the fittest team I can out there on the pitch; everything comes into consideration. Do you take them with you?
“It's Preston; it's an away game. I've not really got the beauty of having an extra 24 hours because I haven't – we're up in Preston. And do I want them travelling on the bus with the players in case there's still a bug there?”
Which is why those concerned have been kept well away from the rest of the squad. “They've been away from the training ground, obviously,” said Grant, revealing a further problem – that his troops are falling ill at different times.
“It's not as if it was 'Bang!' all going down at the same time; it's been spread over a couple of days.”
So much for bugs. The Canary boss was on far happier ground on the more traditional aches, pains and strains that is a manager's usual lot. The rest he has to leave to the health and hygene specialists presumeably poring over samples somewhere.
“Bumps? Chris Brown obviously with his broken nose, but we'll give him every opportunity and he's desperate to play – so that's a fantastic sign,” said Grant, as the 22-year-old striker looks to earn his due reward for his rich, pre-season form with a start this Saturday.
“So I'm sure he'll be available – one because of his willingness to be available and, two, because he's never been off the phone to me being a pest and telling me he's available,” added Grant, as he officially ruled out Darren Huckerby from the fray.
“Hucks is getting there, but I would say he'd not play at the weekend,” said Grant, as that niggling groin strain sidelines the Canary favourite. If only everything else were so simple…