City star Dion Dublin will be unable to step into big John Harton's shoes this weekend after caretaker boss Jim Duffy revealed that, technically, the 38-year-old veteran striker has broken his back.
“Dion's getting close, but not close enough,” said Duffy this morning, ahead of what is likely to be his last game in charge of the Canaries.
And with Hartson ineligble for the daunting trip to his full-time employers at The Hawthorns, so Dublin's return to the fray would have been ideal. For all manner of reasons as the managerless Canaries scrabble about at the foot of the Championship table with just one point from their last 21.
That will not, however, now happen after the back injury sustained in the away defeat at bottom-of-the-table Queen's Park Rangers proves to be rather more than bruising.
“He's had a slight fracture in one of his vertebrae,” said Duffy, with City physio Neal Reynolds estimating the injury as one with a “three to four week” recovery time, according to the caretaker.
“So we don't know if it's something that's been there for a while – or whether it's something that happened against QPR. But the scan shows that he's got a slight fracture.”
It was not, he insisted, a broken back. Although, technically, it probably was.
“I suppose you could dramatise to that level – it is a slight fracture of a bone in the back. So, technically-speaking it is. But it's not anything that will rule him out for months or anything like that.
“But with something like a back it takes time to settle down,” added Duffy, getting the full range of misfortunes in his caretaker spell. The bus broke down en route from Burnley on Tuesday night – a broken fan belt seeing the players and staff roll in, bleary-eyed at Colney, at five o'clock in the morning.
The gods really don't like the Norfolk club. Fortunately, Dublin wasn't sat on it at the time.
“He's been out for a couple of weeks already and the physio Neal thinks it is a three to four week injury, but depending on how things settle down in that period,” said Duffy, stressing again it was not a broken back.
“You say that and people think he's in some immobilised position – it's not that,” he said, with Dublin about to prove the point by appearing a new shirt launch at the Canary Store in Castle Mall this afternoon.
Nor did end there. “Adam's got a tear at the top of his calf,” said Duffy. “I'd be majorly surprised if he was fit for the Ipswich game, although he's a really determined guy I'd expect him to be out for the next couple of weeks.”
And then there was the explanation for Matthew Gilks' absence from the bench at Turf Moor. Cue the possibility of teenager Steven Arnold being David Marshall's understudy at The Hawthorns.
“Matty Gilks' knee flared up on Tuesday morning,” reported Duffy. “It didn't settle down and so we had to put five outfield players on the bench.
“He's got a bit of tendonitis on the knee and so, again, at this moment in time, he's not fit. It could settle down, but he's not training today and if he's not fit Stevie Arnold will travel.”
If anyone was waiting for an injury update on Mark Fotheringham, the news there wasn't brilliant either. “If he's back playing competitively before Christmas then it'll be a bonus,” said Duffy.
On the bright side – and these days you have to look quite hard for it – the on-loan Jimmy Smith is edging ever nearer being able to make a first, competitive start.
“Every day he trains he gets a bit fitter,” said Duffy, with the 20-year-old Chelsea youngster enjoying a ten-minute run-out at Turf Moor the other night.
“It's just important to have him back in the squad and available because of his energy and ability. And I think he could certainly play the majority of a football match now – I don't think that would be a problem.
“You could start him and then see how long he lasts in terms of his general fitness.”
How long Duffy's own caretaker role lasts is, of course, the big question on everyone's lips. He, at least, offered one clue – he's got another game, having initially been told it was just a two-game gig.
What next week brings remains to be seen. The impression remains that way behind the scenes Norwich are starting to get towards a short-list. Going into the Ipswich match managerless and adrift at the bottom of the Championship would be courting real disaster in the hot-house atmosphere of derby-day at Carrow Road.
The new man needs to be unveiled to the masses 15 minutes before kick-off; the hope clearly being that the famed 'new manager bounce' will kick-in immediately.
Patience and forgiveness are not in big supply at the moment; to go into that derby game without a full-time hand on the tiller would test everyone's loyalties. Get the new man in place come the start of next week and, at least, he can have a good, five-day run at getting something together before Suffolk's finest roll into view.
“I've heard one thing more – I'm taking the game against West Brom,” confirmed Duffy, quizzed about his own position.
“I don't know – I can't answer those questions. What they said to me was could I be in charge for the two games – against Bristol City and Burnley.
“And then I get a phone call yesterday – could I be in charge for the game against West Brom? And I said: 'Fine!'
“It's not ideal circumstances for anybody and I think more so for the supporters. It's not a big difference for me – I'm here to do a job.”
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