City boss Glenn Roeder gave another intriguing insight into just who his big mates are in football as he presided over the full-time arrival of Matty Pattison this afternoon – and, of course, a certain young Chelsea starlet.
As welcome as Pattison's signature on a three-and-a-half year contract was after his combative efforts in a Canary shirt – and all for a fee “pushing up towards ?500,000”, according to Roeder – it was the arrival of England Under-19 left-back Ryan Bertrand which really caught the imagination as the new City chief pulled off another of his loan coups.
What was interesting was not the fact that Roeder could clearly pull a trick or two with Chelsea's director of football, Frank Arnesen, but to whom he went to do his homework on the young man about to give Mo Camara a run for his money.
And nor was Roeder alone in having a few contacts in the game – his No2, Lee Clark, also has mates in the right places.
“I'm looking forward to working with him,” said Roeder, as Jimmy Smith went one way and the 18-year-old came back the other.
“Ryan comes to me highly recommended – as always I make sure I do my homework,” said Roeder.
“I ask a lot of people – including someone who I'm very close to at Chelsea, Joe Cole. And though he might not have seen a lot of Ryan around the place, he said that everything he's seen or heard was very positive – that Ryan's got a good future in the game.”
Cole, of course, was under Roeder's charge whilst a youngster at West Ham United and was understood to have been one of the first people to congratulate Roeder on his appointment to the Carrow Road vacancy. That on-going respect and friendship sits slightly at odds with all those who maintain that Roeder was the worst thing to ever happen to the East End club; Cole himself would appear to disagree.
Bertrand has, of course, spent the first half of the season at the Boundary Park home of Oldham Athletic where Clark, too, has a few eyes and ears.
“Mark Crossley is the goalkeeper at Oldham and he's someone that Lee Clark is very close to,” said Roeder, today linked to a move for Tommy Wright as City's new goalkeeping coach as the Jim Hollman affair rumbles on.
“So we quizzed him about Ryan and everything was good; Robert Fleck who scouts for the club now watched him at Southend and said he was probably the outstanding player on the pitch and was ready to step up to Championship level.
“And I just hope that while he's here with us for the second half of the season he can help us get the points that we want to make sure that we're secure in the Championship next year.”
What is equally clear is that Roeder is hoping that with first Smith and now Bertrand, the Canaries can become a regular finishing school for the West London giants; that if word seeps back that the youngsters are well-treated, well-taught and well served games-wise, that going forward Roeder will be entrusted to polish up a few more Chelsea diamonds.
The other point, of course, is that the City chief has yet to pull in a similar favour from one of his biggest contacts in the game, Arsene Wenger at The Emirates. The fact that the Gunners' so-called 'second string' now have a Carling Cup semi-final to look forward to may yet put that particular prospect on hold, but it is clear that option lies open.
“Hopefully when he returns to pre-season training with Chelsea Avram Grant and Frank Arnesen, who I've been dealing with, will see an improved, fine young player.”
He had clearly stepped in ahead of the pack too. “There were probably three or four other Championship clubs that wanted to take Ryan, but Frank (Arnesen) was particularly keen to point Ryan in our direction because of the experience that Jimmy had here,” said Roeder, hinting that on days when he wanted to be tight and compact away from home, the 18-year-old could always play ahead of Mo Camara, on the left-hand side of midfield.
“Ryan was very positive about coming here which was very good news for the club,” added the City boss “That young players want to come and further their career at Norwich City.”
The fact that Arnesen himself had plucked Bertrand out of Gillingham was, said Roeder, another sure indication that the Canaries had a genuine prospect on their hands.
Needless to say, he didn't go without a big fuss from Gills owner Paul Scally as the whole affair went to a tribunal and the Kent side ended up with ?125,000 for their loss.
“Chelsea offered ?50,000 – ?25,000 down and another ?25,000 in six months time. If he plays 40 games then we will get another ?400,000,” said Scally, in the autumn of 2005. “But frankly if he plays 40 games then we should be getting ?32 million.”
The West London giants have found themselves embroiled in similar rows with Leeds United over the youth recruitment policies, but Gillingham's loss could yet prove to be Norwich's gain – or at least for the next five months.
“When you're head-hunted by someone like Frank Arnesen, who is probably regarded as one of the best scouts in the world, then if Frank head hunts you, you're an excellent prospect. So I've been very aware of Ryan for a long time.”
As for Pattison's arrival on a permanent deal, that was probably the biggest 'gimmee…' of the transfer window. “I'm just buzzing to be here,” said the South African born Geordie. “It was the easiest decision that I've ever made,” he added.
His manager wouldn't disagree. “I think it's an excellent move for us,” said Roeder, at the end of a frantic day on the transfer merry-go-round.
“I think he's showed his qualities since he's been here and I think this is an excellent career opportunity for Matty because he knows that he'll be getting a regular game here – and that's what he needed at this stage in his career,” said the City chief, more than happy to offer a stepping stone to a higher level for both players
“I think that one day both these young men will be playing Premiership football. As far as Matty's concerned, I certainly hope its with Norwich. As far as Ryan is concerned if he plays like I'm expecting him to play over the next four months, I don't suppose we'll be able to afford him…”