City boss Glenn Roeder today cut John Hartson's loan deal short and returned the 32-year-old, one-time Welsh international to sender.
Hartson would have been eligible to feature in this weekend's trip to Plymouth, but Roeder has clearly seen enough in his first two games in charge to decide that his loan kitty could be better spent elsewhere.
On a young striker with a one-in-three strike record in the Premiership, was the new manager's intriguing claim – a sit-up-and-take-notice swoop that he came “very close” to pulling off yesterday.
Either way, Roeder will not be taking up the option of extending Hartson's loan spell for another two months and was due to inform the player himself of his decision before training this morning.
“We'll let John go,” said Roeder, diplomatic enough to let everyone else speculate as to why.
“I think I'd rather let you make your own mind up,” said Roeder, simply confirming that Hartson would not now be part of his plans for the lengthy trip to Home Park this weekend.
“I shall not include him on Saturday either – which I could do.”
In subsequent radio interviews, the new Canary chief did allude to one or two “mobility” issues which wouldn't exactly come as a major surprise.
Brought in as the one and only transfer act of caretaker boss Jim Duffy, good as Hartson still was when the ball was delivered to his feet, anywhere beyond a six-foot circle around him and collecting the ball was a lost cause.
He could still make an impact – as he proved in the second-half against Ipswich when he set Jamie Cureton up for his leveller.
But forced to start him on Tuesday night through the hamstring injury to Dion Dublin, Hartson looked horribly laboured against Watford and clearly hadn't got the fitness in him to deliver even two 45s in the space of 48-hours.
And with both Chrissy Martin and Chris Brown arriving after the break and offering far more by way of movement and energy, so Roeder and his No2 Lee Clark have clearly come to the conclusion that they will not be throwing more good money after bad as Hartson is left to face an uncertain future back at The Hawthorns.
In the meantime, Roeder revealed that he had been hitting the phones hard in his quest to add another significant loan signing to his armoury having pulled one already out of the bag in the shape of Martin 'Tiny' Taylor.
At 6ft 4in tall, the on-loan Birmingham centre-half more than proved his worth against the Hornets in mid-week – now all Roeder has to do is to find two or three more similar characters to bolt into his bottom-of-the-table side further up the pitch.
One, it appears, was a whisker away from arriving yesterday, though the City chief still appears hopeful that the unnamed Premiership striker could come after the forthcoming international break.
“We've been looking at that position and came very close yesterday,” said Roeder. “And I know close is no good.
“But we came very close to getting a striker that would have made people sit up and take notice; of hopefully me being able to bring players into the club that the fans recognise and would have thought: 'Well, normally we wouldn't have got a player like that…'”
And, said Roeder, that particular iron in the fire was not wholly cold; the timetable had just slipped slightly as the Premiership club concerned deals with a few injury issues of its own.
“I still think we might be able to get this player in, but not just yet – it might be in three or four weeks time,” added the City boss, a time-scale helped by the fact that after this weekend's trip to Plymouth, Norwich have a fortnight's break for the Euro2008 qualifiers.
He did, however, offer the odd clue.
“He's scored a goal every three games in the Premiership – and he's still young,” he added, stopping himself short of offering any more clues.
“It's just someone who's got two arms and two legs…,” he joked. “He's a real Premiership player, but his manager – and it's opinions – doesn't fancy him.
“But because he's got a couple of injuries in that position, he just feels that he needs to get those players fit again.”
Roeder also revealed that his quest for a new coach to work alongside him and Clark was also drawing to a conclusion – even if his first target now appears to be staying put.
“There was two in line,” said Roeder, with the rumour mill rapidly suggesting that one of those was 28-year-old assistant Newcastle Academy manager Adam Sadler.
“And one is staying at his club. Because when he showed interest, we've got him promotion at his club.
“But there was another one that I wanted equally as much and if I could have had two, I'd have had the both of them.
“But I'm going to speak to his manager this morning,” said Roeder, suggesting that this was another one in the bright, young, ambitious mould with Sadler reported to have been offered Clark's old role as Newcastle reserve team boss. He was stood alongside Terry McDermott in that role this week. Hence Roeder's switch elsewhere.
“It will be a big promotion for him coming here; young coach; been very successful where he's been; produced a lot of players for the first team at the club that he's been at now for five or six years – and he's now ready to step up to senior level.
“And he knew that he'd have been coming to Newcastle this season, had I'd have stayed. So the three of us on the footballing side will be a good management team.”
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