New Canary loan signing Ryan Bertrand this afternoon revealed that he had just enough time for a quick word with Jimmy Smith as the two, bright Chelsea prospects swapped places at Carrow Road.
City boss Glenn Roeder this morning revealed that Smith, 20, would not be returning back to Norfolk for a second loan spell due, principally, to the Premiership gaints' African Cup of Nations commitments.
What he over-looked to mention was that, in the course of his conversations with Chelsea's director of football Frank Arnesen and Blues boss Avram Grant, he had stolen a march on a clutch of rival Championship clubs and persuaded the pair to lend him Bertrand until the end of the season instead.
Freshly returned from his own, eye-catching loan spell at Oldham Athletic, the England Under-19 left-back admitted it was a very easy decision to make – even before he had a quick word with his reserve team pal Jimmy.
“Was it an easy decision?” said the 18-year-old, former Gillingham youngster. “It was probably one of the easiest decisions I've ever made.
“As soon as I heard that a club the size of Norwich – and with the ambition of Norwich – I was more than happy to come and be part of that and try and fight for my place in the team,” said the Chelsea prospect, with a nice line in modesty given the rich footballing future long mapped out for him.
He has, after all, got to oust Mo Camara out of the Norwich side after the 32-year-old on-loan Derby left-back agreed to extend his own spell in Norfolk until the end of the season. With both having registered ahead of the noon deadline ahead of tomorrow's FA Cup third round clash with Bury, it will be interesting to see which way the Roeder wind blows and to which player he gives the nod for the Shakers game.
That quick chat with Smith helped. “I did see him back at the training ground yesterday and he just spoke very highly of it – that it's a brilliant club and that I should definitely go.”
Certainly Bertrand believes that his four months under Latics legend John Sheridan has done him the power of good. The physical nature of the Football League and Championship beast should not take this young man by surprise any more.
“Playing in the League for anyone would be a tremendous education and learning curve,” said the youngster. “And I think I've done really well, as well. So now to come back and step up a level to the Championship is brilliant.”
He is, he insists, an out-and-out left-back – not a left wing-back of the Simon Lappin variety. That said in size and reputation, you get the distinct impression that he is a left-back in the same way that England's Ashley Cole is a left-back – one that is as comfortable and as confident either side of the half-way line.
“I base my game on getting forward,” Bertrand confirmed. “And being able to attack as well.
“But first and foremost I'm a defender. I like to defend properly and then I can add the attacking aspect to my game.”
With both Cole and England's Wayne Bridge ahead of him in the Stamford Bridge queue, the young man is not exactly short or role models. Those of a longer City memory will recall bumping into a young Ashley Cole at Selhurst Park when he was on loan with Palace. He looked a million dollars then and has done little to disappoint thereafter.
If Bertrand is ear-marked to follow in their footsteps – even to the extent of finishing off his education in the rough back-streets of the Championship – then everyone could be a winner as Roeder's top-level contacts continue to bear such exciting fruit.
“They've been brilliant and I've been looking up to them sort of players since I was little,” said Bertrand, quizzed as to the influence that Messrs Cole and Bridge have had on his development. “So to get the chance to actually join Chelsea – Bridgey was there and I got the chance to watch him and then Ashley came as well – so I had two of the best English left-back to watch every day; to train with and learn from.”
In fairness, he doesn't – for now – see the two in a competitive light; he knows his current place in the Avram Grant pecking order. Or at least, for now.
“I'm only 18, so I'm really relaxed,” he said. “But hopefully now I can really push on in the Championship; hopefully, do really well and then maybe soon stake my claim for the first team.”
He hasn't, he admitted, seen much of Norwich. Which, had he caught QPR (a) live on Sky, may be no bad thing.
“I haven't seen that much of them because I've been 100 per cent focussed on Oldham and trying to get them up and away from the relegation zone, but that's the type of person that I am. So when I come here, I'll just give it 100 per cent for Norwich.”
Nor was the physical aspect to the game 'down below' about to concern him. You suspect that one or two 'characters' from the lower leagues will have already tested the young man's resolve out at Boundary Park on a dank Tuesday night.
“It'll be a good test – I'm still young. I'm still growing; still learning the game so, as I say, it'll be a good test to see how I compare to the Championship players.”
He has met the first bunch of them at Colney this morning as the latest Chelsea youngster that Roeder has pulled out of the hat trained for the first time with his new Canary colleagues.
“It wasn't too intense – we just did a warm-up and little phases of play, so it wasn't too intense. But everyone seems really nice – they're all good lads – so, hopefully, it should be good.”