City boss Glenn Roeder this morning dropped the biggest hint yet that a phone call to Arsene Wenger may be on its way in either this transfer window or the next as the Canary manager plots his next move in the 2008 loan market.
But for events at Ewood Park earlier this month when Wenger's young guns booked their place in the Carling Cup semi-final with that dramatic 3-2 away win at Blackburn Rovers, Norwich might have been able to benefit from Roeder's long-standing friendship with the Arsenal boss in this transfer window.
However, that cup success has now left Wenger in more of a mind to keep his teenage Gunners' side together for as long as their Carling Cup run continues. Hence Roeder may have to keep his powder dry on the Emirates front till the summer; hence the reason why the City boss was quietly willing Rovers on in their quarter-final clash.
“I like Arsene – he's the best manager in the world,” said Roeder, linked to a director of football role at the Emirates this summer.
“So to say that I wish Arsenal had gone out of the cup would be an awful thing to say, but I did have my blue-and-white quartered shirt on sat in front of the TV that night!
“But I couldn't say that. All I know is that as and when, if Arsene can ever help Norwich and me I think he will. I think he will. I've got no promises, but I think he will.”
Roeder's strong north London connections have already found him linked with teenage left-back Armand Traore whose last outing came at Ewood Park. The one-time Monaco youth product looks set to be the next world-beater off the Emirates conveyor belt as Wenger's global recruitment network unearths yet another gem.
“I think at the last count, as I understand it, there's 27 clubs that have been linked with him,” said Roeder, tongue only half in cheek.
“He's a fabulous player and he's good enough to play in Arsenal's team now – as he proved against Blackburn. He was just a Rolls-Royce of a left-back; a fantastic player,” said Roeder, caught out by Arsenal's Carling Cup heroics once before – this time when he Newcastle United boss.
“I actually went to see him play when Arsenal beat Liverpool 6-3 at Anfield which was another bloody nuisance! Because I was sort of on a promise that I would take him to Newcastle on loan as a 17-year-old, but they went through and – rightly so – they kept him.
“But they haven't got a reserve team – they've just 22, 23, 24 brilliant players who would help any team,” said Roeder, who watched last season as Steve Bruce's Birmingham reaped the benefit from securing the signatures of Nicklas Bendtner, Sebastian Larsson and Fabrice Muamba on loan from the Emirates.
“There is no doubt in my mind that one of the key factors in Birmingham being promoted last season was the three loan players they had from Arsenal. The Danish lad (Bendtner) is a fantastic player – you'd piggy-back him up here, wouldn't you? Any one of those young players you'd find room for in your team.
“He's the best recruiter in the world – I can't see anyone better than him.”
Whether or not that victory at Ewood Park has put the Arsenal connection on hold for six months remains to be seen, but there is no doubt that Roeder is expecting a busy month of the transfer merry-go-round with the Canary chief still feeling positive as to the chance of all four of his current loan signings – Matty Pattison, Jimmy Smith, Mo Camara and Ched Evans – staying for a longer tour of duty.
Smith has already returned to Chelsea where he is due to meet new boss Avram Grant over the next 48-hours to discuss his plans for the player. Out of the Palace clash tomorrow, Roeder was hoping to see Smith again on Friday ahead of this weekend's FA Cup third round clash with League Two strugglers Bury.
Evans heads back to Manchester for similar talks with Sven Goran Eriksson on Thursday; again with a view to being back in Norfolk come Friday. Pattison is the one with a permanent deal up his sleeve subject to both Norwich and Newcastle agreeing on a valuation for the tenacious midfielder. Those talks continue. Roeder was also hopeful that Derby boss Paul Jewell would agree to Camara staying put at Carrow Road.
“We'll be exploring the loan system and we'll be exploring some permanent transfers as well,” confirmed Roeder, not about to budge on his ?750,000 valuation for Blues centre-half Martin Taylor.
“It won't be an easy market. I think there are a few other Championship managers that have been promised money and if I can justify why I need to spend a little bit of money, I think I will be supported that way as well,” added the City chief, with Delia Smith's new book proceeds and the Turners' Central Trust fortune both – potentially – in play this January.
“We're not going to tell everybody how much because you don't want the rest of the world to know that – it's got to be a secret,” said Roeder. Tell the world that – for example – you've suddenly got ?10 million to play with and as if by magic, you suddenly find yourself paying ?10 million prices. Hence his determination to keep everyone guessing as to the actual riches at his disposal.
In the meantime, Roeder did reveal that luckless Canary midfielder Luke Chadwick was now booked in for an operation on his damaged shoulder next week – a procedure that is expected to sideline Chadwick for at least three months as surgeons sew his left shoulder back into place. The player himself revealed that the damaged joint had dislocated “30 times” this season.
“I think it's only fair now,” said Roeder. “I'm not saying he's put his career on the line – because I wouldn't let him do that – but there comes a time when he can't go any further and the shoulder is really restricting him now. He's so conscious of it now in training.
“But I'm full of praise for him – lots of other players would have been hammering on my door two months ago demanding an operation, but we needed him at that time and he scored a very important goal against Coventry City.
“But we've got him booked in for an operation now to have, basically, the shoulder sewn in so it can't come out, but that will take him out for three months.”
Roeder's one, short-term casualty for the trip to Palace tomorrow is skipper Mark Fotheringham who is now “60-40” to play after his recent hamstring troubles.
“We're going to test him this morning – he has got a chance, but no more than a chance. If he's fit obviously it would help us because he would play, but we will see how he is this morning. But I won't take any chances.”