City boss Glenn Roeder tonight proved as good as his word at St Mary's last night when he bolted another centre-half into his Colney thinking – only not the one everyone had long been expecting.
Lee Croft's former England Under-20 team-mate Matthew Bates this evening joined the Canaries on a three-month emergency loan deal and immediately explained why Roeder was so confident after yesterday's 1-0 win at Southampton that he would have at least one centre-half to unveil come Thursday morning – even if the protracted chase of Martin 'Tiny' Taylor drew a big, fat blank over the next 28 hours.
This was 'Plan B' walking into the building; albeit one that at five-foot ten-inches tall didn't quite match up size-wise to six-foot four-inch 'Tiny'.
But what Bates might lack in natural, centre-half height, he has long made up for in promise – ever since he and his long-time defensive pal David Wheater together provided the rock upon which Middlesbrough's famous 2004 FA Youth Cup triumph was built.
He also has a further string to his bow in the fact that he is equally comfortable at right-back – at last giving Roeder the kind of cover he has been searching for behind Jon Otsemobor.
With the games due to come especially thick and fast in March, Otsemobor's sore Achilles could be sorely tested. Hence the need for some sort cover – as opposed to that of the Gary Doherty variety.
But whereas Wheater has gone on to be one of the 'finds' of this season at the heart of that Boro' defence – and one of the reasons why boss Gareth Southgate was willing to cash his Jonathan Woodgate chips in this window – Bates' career has been on hold since he ruptured his knee ligaments on only his second loan game with Ipswich Town last season.
For having made his Town debut in the 3-1 derby win over Norwich last November and played his largely inadvertant part in enabling Luke Chadwick to get the full tour of Ipswich General Hospital, six days later and he himself was stretchered off in the 1-0 defeat at Barnsley and – once the severity of his knee injury became clear – so he returned to the Riverside his loan spell in Suffolk over before it had ever really begun.
Should Bates be involved in Saturday's home clash with Preston North End, it will be his first competitive senior fixture for 14 months as the one-time England Youth star looks to play catch-up with pal Wheater. According to the official Boro website, he has made just one appearance for the club's reserves this season – an hour-long outing that put his rebuilt knee firmly through its paces as his long haul back to the top of the game continues with this spell in Norfolk.
It was certainly all there in 2005-2005 as David Parnaby's rightly famous youth academy churned out star after star – Wheater and Bates were just the two centre-halves. Morrison, Cattermole, Downing… the list went on and on.
And fresh from having agreed a four-and-a-half year contract with his home-town club, the ball-playing Bates would make 28 first team appearances that season – indeed, he would be named Man of the Match in Boro's UEFA Cup semi-final, first leg clash with Steua Bucharest that year.
The following season, however, was where it all started to unravel with that desperate knee injury – Bates doing the full works as he damaged both his crucial and medial ligaments.
“We'll have a few new signings in by Thursday,” said Roeder last night, as one finally pops up to the surface.
“I'm very confident about being able to name two by Thursday and I like to think there'll be one more, even another one. Definitely two, stroke three or four possibly.”
Roeder's thinking was also turning to a possible suspension for Doherty should last night's handball have triggered a second suspension this season. In the event it appear that the Republic of Ireland international is a couple of yellows short of hitting the 'magic' ten-mark. Now, at least, Roeder has that base covered.
“I'm hoping that come Thursday one of the two signings will be a central defender that will cover Doc (Doherty) for that.”
Tonight and Roeder ticked that particular box – albeit even if Boro enjoy a 24-hour recall on their young defender. Now to move on to boxes two, three and four as the clock continues to tick down to the midnight hour.