City boss Glenn Roeder readily admitted that he faced an interesting decision on Tuesday night – whether or not to hand Darren Huckerby an immediate return to his first team thinking on the back of Saturday's 2-0 win against Coventry City.
It was, of course, a game that City's two-time Player of the Year was forced to sit out after picking up that three-game ban for his late red card against Ipswich Town.
In his absence City had – till Saturday – struggled. Come this weekend, however, and Roeder's decision to slam new-boy Matty Pattison in on the left-hand side of midfield paid immediate dividends in the shape of two big assists for both Luke Chadwick's sweetly-struck opener and Jamie Cureton's killer second.
And while Pattison could, in theory, step back inside to accommodate Huckerby's return, that would force the new Canary chief to break up his newly-forged Fotheringham-Russell partnership in centre midfield. Given he was singing both their praises afterwards, it is clearly something he would be loathe to do.
The fact that Huckerby himself might now be wondering just what the manager decides could, said Roeder, be no bad thing. He is, you sense, more than happy to keep everyone on their toes – Huckerby included.
“I want that problem all over the pitch,” said Roeder, giving no clue as to which way his mind was working. He also has on-loan teenager Ched Evans up his sleeve after the Manchester City youngster watched Saturday's events unfold from the substitutes' bench.
Which is probably why Cureton was more than happy to bag himself his sixth goal of the season in a bid to book his own place in tomorrow's starting line-up.
“Having pressure on your place is a marvellous thing to have,” said Roeder. “Because the bottom line is that 99% of them to want to play for the first team. We don't have too many, if you want 'skivvers' who just want to pick up their money. They do want to play.
“And I think it's better to keep them on their toes – for them to know that if they don't play well that they might lose their shirt and who knows when they'd get it back again?”
A thought that might now be crossing Huckerby's mind. In fairness, to the Canary favourite he was it seemed doing everything to be part of that winning dressing room; his heart still wedded to the cause.
“Darren Huckerby was in the dressing room before the game – he wanted to be with the team which pleased me,” said Roeder, who watched the first 35 minutes of the game from the directors' box before joining his No2 Lee Clark on the touchline.
“And then he (Huckerby) was one of the first back into the dressing room afterwards to congratulate all the players.
“But, who knows? There might just be a doubt in his mind… And that's a nice doubt for him to have. Whereas before..? He knows he has to get that shirt back.”
On the back of such a sterling team effort, Roeder must be sorely tempted to throw the same starting 11 out again at Bloomfield Road and then be in the happy position of having both Huckerby and Evans on the bench – something that would certainly give Blackpool a pause for thought.
Again on the evidence of his first four games in charge and his mantra of not over-complicating players' lives, you do not get any sense that Roeder will tinker with his system to somehow squeeze Huckerby back into the team without upsetting his midfield balance. He looks like a solid, 4-4-2 man.
Huckerby will need to fit into that system, rather than asking any system to fit around him.
And on Saturday's evidence those two weeks without a game have found Roeder and Clark bolting on an added bite to the bottom-of-the-table Canaries; that some of the tackles – particularly once tempers started to fray after the interval – arrived with genuine intent.
That Coventry shall not pass; shall not score; shall not condemn City to League One football next season. Whether it was all a one-off is for tomorrow's long trip to the seaside to reveal.
In the meantime, however, a spot of motivational work appears to have borne very significant fruit in the shape of Norwich's first win in 12 games.
“We looked at a motivational video for seven-eight minutes yesterday as part of the team-talk,” said Roeder afterwards, revealing a little more about the new man and his methods.
“And it showed them how the top players blocked shots, blocked crosses; put their body in the way of the ball to stop that ball going into the back of the net. And for a few of them it made the hair stand up on the back of their neck.
“It made them pumped up and ready for today's game – and the played like that as well.”
It was, he said, a team performance; that no-one in that side let him down; everyone put in a good, honest Champinship shift.
“That's what we are – we're a team. We are united.”
His one immediate concern injury-wise was for 38-year-old Dion Dublin who put in a big, 90-minute shift on his return from a hamstring injury. Come the end and he was fast starting to seize up – the fear being that his hamstrings were starting to tug again.
“Dion had a lot of cramp – that's why he came off,” reported Roeder, desperate that he can keep the veteran striker in and around the squad.
“We just hope it's not the start of a hamstring strain or anything. Dion doesn't think that – he thinks it was just a bit of cramp.
“But for a 38-year-old he covered a lot of grass there and I didn't want to take him off because the man's a warrior. And we need warriors in the team. And he was terrific today until the cramp got the better of him.”
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