City boss Peter Grant wasn't building up anyone's hopes of an immediate loan signing as the Premiership clubs continue to prove slippery beasts. They have, it seems, now got their Carling Cup commitments to worry about.
Haven't we all, was the gist of Grant's response this morning as he and his scouting team hang on the end of a phone for another week and keep their fingers crossed that Jason Shackell's ankle may be up to an outing against Crystal Palace this Saturday.
“With the phone bill that's here, we could have bought a player with the number of phone calls we've made,” said the City chief, only half in jest after a summer chasing everyone up and down dale – certainly anyone and everyone who could fill that vacant No5 shirt. He hasn't given up – even if there may be another two weeks on the phone before something, somewhere, falls into place.
“We're just waiting for that one to drop – that we get that little bit of luck in getting the bodies in,” said Grant, still anxious to bolster both the heart of his defence and the centre of his midfield from somewhere out there in loan-land.
“But unfortunately for us it's moved from time to time. You think we'll do that and then you get an injury and you think: 'No, we'll leave that and try and push that one on…
“So we'll see – hopefully we'll try and do something over the next couple of weeks. But they'll probably be making the Carling Cup an excuse rather than the (Euro2008) qualifiers.
“We'll still make the phone calls and, hopefully, they'll get fed up with listening to us and give in.”
Grant has already voiced his frustration at the nature of the 'emergency' loan market with – as ever – the top flight clubs holding all the cards. Every one an ace as the desperate Championship clubs beneath end up paying what it takes to get one of their unwanted stars on the books. For three months.
“I'd still play money for players,” said Grant. “But it's not the fact that you pay their loan fee – and that can be anything to half a million pounds – but on top of that you're maybe talking about ?15,000 a week for somebody who's maybe played two first team games.”
Who Grant might be referring to exactly is almost not the point – everyone will be working to similar numbers. From the East End of London to the northern suburbs of Manchester. That's the going rate.
And as much as some might baulk at such numbers – particularly when the player invariably wanders home to sender once his 90-days are done – the reality is that there will be Championship clubs out there willing to bite those kind of bullets.
Milan Mandaric at Leicester City is unlikely to let such figures get in the way of Gary Megson's reported return to Championship management; likewise the Formula One millions making their way into John Gregory's coffers at QPR could tip the balance Rangers' way.
“It used to be the case where they'd let them out and say: 'We'll help you with the wages. That just doesn't happen now.
“I think it was the Middlesbrough chairman who was quoted the other day as saying that someone had come in to get someone in on loan off them and had only offered to pay 10% of their wages.
“And he'd said don't come here shopping if you can't afford it – don't go to Harrods, if you can only afford to go to Tesco's. And that's the way it is now. For us 10% is massive dought – for them, it's nothing.”
But Grant knows all too well that somewhere on the shelves of Harrods lies the kind of quality he needs. That's where he will have to shop loan-wise if he wishes to take Norwich to the next level.
“They've got boys sitting there who would definitely benefit from playing; who will not be near the first team.” But with the transfer window now tightly shut in the Premiership – where the opportunity to bring in even 'emergency' loans doesn't exist – so the market gets harder and harder to crack.
“So they'll say: 'Well, if we get a couple of injuries, we may be need him in three or four months…' And that guy may only get one game – if he's lucky. And that might be a Carling Cup substitute appearance.
“And that's what makes it more difficult,” added Grant, about to embark on a frantic spell of games with City's own Carling Cup trip to Manchester City ensuring there will be no rest for the wicked over the next month.
He could, of course, always delve into the Football League depths for an 'emergency' loan. But then it is back to the quality issue.
“I could go to lower levels – lower levels that I feel wouldn't improve us just to bolster the squad. But to me that defeats the purpose.”
He needs quality – the kind of quality that takes him upwards. “We're going for the Premier League.
“That's what we're trying to achieve; that's what teams in the Championship are trying to achieve. That's where the big step is.
“There's big, big games in this division. And I've spoken to a lot of managers about how tough it is now – because we're all wanting the same players,” said Grant, proof of that coming in the shape of the lengthy queue that followed news of Fitz Hall's possible availability on loan.
“But now there are certain clubs that can afford to pay top dollar for those players – ie they've got money from coming out of the Premier League.
“They can afford that top whack because they're out of it for a year and they're trying to take the gamble to get back straight away. And I think that'll be the case as it goes on year after year after year. Whoever comes out will pay the big dough.
“So you've got all those problems – it's not just a matter of making the phone calls.”