City teenager Michael Spillane could find himself very much in demand this Saturday – be it either in the heart of that much-troubled Canary defence or that ever-changing Norwich midfield, the 18-year-old could find himself with a big job to do once the Sky cameras start to roll.
It is a game that the Canaries can not afford to lose. Not at home to the bottom club in the Championship.
For while the season may still only be eight games old and the play-off places might be no more than two or three wins distant, there is a real need for improvement; a real need to see a team coming together – and one that is moving on and upwards again after the undeniable low of last week's trip to Wolves.
The fact that Gary Doherty is struggling to shrug off a groin strain sustained in the mid-week Carling Cup trip to Manchester City and both Dion Dublin and jason Shackell are suspended hardly helps Peter Grant's cause.
And nor is his central midfield any more settled as the Norwich boss mixes and matches in the hope of discovering a winning blend. He has, at least, Julien Brellier to call on again after the Frenchman completed his one-match ban.
But now he has the Eastlands efforts of both Spillane and Rossi Jarvis to ponder; that and the knowledge that minus an eleventh hour loan signing, Spillane could step back into Doherty's shoes at centre-half. He might, in all fairness, have to.
“Would I prefer to play at centre-half or centre-midfield? That's something I've been asked quite a lot,” said the Republic of Ireland Under-19 skipper, who put in a typically robust performance against Manchester City on Tuesday night. That's one thing Spillane doesn't do – reputations.
“I don't mind – I can play either centre-back or centre-mid. Anywhere, really. If he wants to put me there, then I'm more than happy.”
He certainly didn't let anyone down on his first start of the season on Tuesday night as he added a spot of that teenage 'No fear!' thing alongside Darel Russell
“It was good – it's the first game that I've played this season and it was good to get back into it,” said the Cambridge-born Academy product.
“I thought I did alright and kept the ball well and just kept it simple really – and that's what I was asked to do,” he added, as Grant demanded – and got – a much improved performance from Saturday's shambles at Wolves.
Not doing the simple things well, was the manager's message at Molineux. That changed for the better at Eastlands; whether that improvement contiues at Carrow Road this Ssaturday will be the next question for both manager and team to answer.
“Sometimes we've not been doing the simple things well – especially Saturday which was probably our worst performance of the season and that was the main thing the manager was saying – that we didn't keep it simple; we didn't put enough passes together,” said Spillane. “And that's what we were concentrating on on Tuesday night.”
He had, of course, made a brief appearance on Saturday – not an experience he wishes to repeat. The damage, in fairness, had long been done before he arrived.
“It was really hard – we only had nine men and they were just passing the ball around and the fans were giving it the old 'Ole!' shout,” said Spillane.
“So it was hard. We didn't really get on the ball. In the changing room after everyone was just absolutely gutted and no-one wants to go through that feeling again time after time. Obviously it happens in football, but you don't want to be going through it too often.
“You just wouldn't want to be there…”
The contrast with the feeling at the end of Tuesday night's last-gasp 1-0 defeat was clear – even if it condemned the Canaries to their third straight defeat in a week and left a distinct air of unease hanging over Carrow Road.
Finding yourself 20th in the table and with a late, TV kick-off ensuring you could be in the bottom three come 5.20pm this Saturday is not what anyone had in mind.
“Everyone knew that we'd play well and, obviously, we were unlucky – no-one wants to lose like that in the last minute. But, overall, we were pleased because we'd improved from Saturday,” said Spillane, unmoved by the club's current lowly league standing.
“We're not really worried – we know we can pick it up and climb back up the league so we're not panicking at the minute.”
Spillane certainly appears to be relishing his chance a the sharp end – he, like many others, isn't always stretched to his full potential by the Pontins Holidays Combination (East).
“Sometimes when you're playing against a youth team, it can be a bit pointless,” said Spillane, whose blossoming youth international career hit a new high earlier this summer when he grabbed a late winner to secure Sean McCaffrey's Under-18 team a Lisbon International Tournament success via a 1-0 win over hosts Portugal.
He is, he insists, ready to make the step up to the next level – to mix it with the kind of physical presence a Graham Kavanagh will bring to the party come Saturday.
“Personally, I feel I'm ready – personally, I've felt that I've been ready for a little while so it's just up to the manager and coaches as to whether they put me in or not.
“It can get frustrating, but you've just got to get your head down and keep training well and, hopefully, you get a chance again,” said Spillane, clearly hoping that opportunity will knock again this weekend.
“He's put me in and I think I've done alright.”
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