City boss Glenn Roeder will take one long, last look at Martin Taylor injury-wise ahead of tomorrow's home clash with Coventry City – otherwise, everyone boasting a knock and a niggle is fit and ready for the bitter fight ahead.
And after a full fortnight alone with his new charges, Roeder is “expecting a performance” this weekend. End of.
“Martin Taylor seems OK,” said Roeder at Colney this morning. “But we'll double check on him – he's the one I need to look most closely at.
“He's trained this week but we have kept him wrapped up in cotton wool. We'll extend him this morning, but hopefully he'll be OK.”
The new City chief has, therefore, a relative abundance of riches at his disposal with Dion Dublin, Gary Doherty and Mark Fotheringham all reporting fit, if not match fit, for duty. And then, of course, there are the three loan arrivals – Matty Pattison, Mo Camara and Ched Evans – all of whom Roeder said “would be involved” in this weekend's crucial home clash.
For the Canaries desperately need to kick-start their sorry season into life; they have to maintain contact with that tail-end pack if they are to have any chance of survival; that gap cannot become eight, nine or ten points going into that hectic Christmas period.
Roeder was on the phone right up till 4.45pm yesterday afternoon trying to sling one further loan face into his bottom-of-the-table side ahead of that 5pm deadline. One final call into Wolves boss Mick McCarthy merely confirmed what he had long suspected – that there was no loan market this autumn. Look around and bar the kids of Evans' ilk, no-one was letting their senior players out to play.
Between now and January 1 when the New Year transfer window opens, City will have to go with what they have got – including Academy teenager Steven Arnold on the bench as Matthew Gilks sits on the sidelines for the next three months with his Marshall-style ankle ligament injury.
The fact that England Under-21 keeper Joe Lewis is locked into a window-window loan deal at Morecombe was one of the more unwelcome bequests from the previous regime with Roeder thus far drawing a blank on the free agent keeper front.
“I've found that situation very strange,” said Roeder, toeing a diplomatic line. “Letting Joe Lewis go on a window-to-window when you can't call him back when he's your No3.
“The risk that you're taking that your No1 and No2 goalkeepers are not going to get injured is quite unbelievable. Yes, let him go on a 93-day, a three-month loan which allows you to bring him back at any time that you want, but window-to-window when he's your third choice is amazing. So, fingers crossed with Marshall.”
Fotheringham did his cause no harm by reaching for his toys when he was substituted after 65 minutes of Monday night's reserve team game with Northampton Town. “It was good to see that he had a row because he didn't want to come off.
“Which was wonderful – what a good attitude,” said Roeder, who will be without Darren Huckerby for one final game.
Quizzed as to whether he was still on the phone yesterday, Roeder was very sure in his answer. “Yes – absolutely,” he said. “But I just couldn't get the managers to allow them out. It's a time of the year now when there are a lot of games coming up – especially over the Christmas period.
“And even if players are well down the pecking order managers are keeping all their options open in case of injuries, etc.”
His only slight consolation was the fact that when he looks around no-one else had much more success either. Four in the current climate is, in itself, no mean feat. Particularly if each and every one performs to the levels Roeder clearly expects of them.
“I'm not sitting here this morning: 'How did I miss that one? I didn't think of that one…' There just hasn't been a market. There aren't a lot of experienced players that have moved from one club to another at all. A few young players, but that's the way it is.”
There was, of course, one other move that – in theory – should have gone through over the last fortnight, that of new first team coach Paul Stephenson.
In practice, however, and the 39-year-old's official unveiling appears to have hit a blockage; one that Roeder still insists will be overcome “shortly”. And as and when it is, he will name names in no uncertain terms. Someone, somewhere, is firmly off his Christmas card list with the suspicion remaining that the Hartlepool chairman is playing a little hard to get over the compensation package for his youth team coach.
Whoever it is, they are looking down the barrel of Roeder's gun as he waits for the ink to dry on a deal for the one-time England youth winger.
“We will be able to tell you who the coach is very shortly,” said Roeder, who was quoted in last week's Newcastle Evening Chronicle as saying that Stephenson was Norfolk-bound.
“And when we do I'll have plenty to say as to why it's been held up so long and about the person who's held it up – because it's a flipping disgrace. And I'll name him – I'll have no problem about that because we should have been able to name this coach a week ago.
“It's ridiculous. He's done so well at the club that he's at they should be giving him a watch to go and saying: 'Thank you very much…' So I'll have plenty to say about the individual who has tried to stop him coming here – because it's out of order.”