At 21 years of age, it seems a mite harsh to christen Middlesbrough's Matthew Bates as the 'old man' of the party.
But does have a two year head-start on five of Glenn Roeder's fellow loan signings this month – James Henry, Ryan Bertrand and Kieran Gibbs are all 18; Alex Pearce and Ched Evans 19.
All five have, however, played more competitive football in those same two years than Bates after his blossoming Boro' career was put on hold by a serious knee injury sustained whilst on loan with Ipswich Town in November, 2006, and a repeat performance last summer – albeit to the opposite knee as the former England Youth international gained an unwanted pair of rebuilt cruciate ligaments following a similar injury to the first in a pre-season friendly clash with Darlington.
All in all, 2007 was clearly a year to forget for David Wheater's long-time defensive partner and pal.
The fact that the latter is fast becoming a permanent fixture in Gareth Southgate's thoughts – and, in part, enabled the Boro boss to kiss goodbye to Jonathan Woodgate this window – merely spurs Bates on. He is, he admits, a young man in a hurry; he has a lot of lost time to make up.
Hence his delight at the opportunity that now knocks.
“Was it an easy decision for me to make? Yes, it was,” he said. “I got the phone call at the end of last week and it dragged a little bit.
“Middlesbrough were umming and ahhing whether to let me go or not. I was right back in there and having been injured for so long, I tried to push it through really – playing games out on loan will be good for me and for Middlesbrough in the long run.”
City boss Glenn Roeder was convinced he was signing exactly the kind of determined character he needed – one that, initially, will keep Messrs Shackell and Doherty firmly on their toes. It would be a major surprise to see the pair parted for this afternoon's home clash with Preston North End after their efforts at St Mary's on Tuesday night.
On false move, however, and that could all change.
“The lad from Middlesbrough is an incredibly tough person – and when he tackles, you know you've been tackled,” said Roeder, MC for the introductions at Colney yesterday.
The City boss was clearly not unduly concerned by Bates' lack of match practice; officially, he's played just 60 minutes of a reserve game this season. Couple that with the bit of the pre-season friendly he played against Darlington in the summer before injury struck again, and Bates hasn't started a senior game of football for 14 months. Behind closed doors and the Boro physios and coaches have been topping up his fitness levels.
“He's had a couple of 90 minutes and he's got enough experience to pick up the threads of playing again pretty quickly,” said Roeder, with advice from Boro managers past and present ringing in his ears. “He comes with a big recommendation with his manager – and Steve McLaren as well.
“And having now met him the first impressions were very good. And he came in training yesterday when he didn't have to. He jumped in a car on the Wednesday night to make sure that he got down here for training yesterday (Thursday) even though we had a day off.
“He trained on his own and when I met him he was chomping at the bit.”
Certainly the last 14 months would have seen weaker characters fall by the wayside. “It's been very frustrating,” said Bates. “But you've got to keep your head up.
“I've had the right people around me at Middlesbrough; the physios have been very good; they've got me back and I'm feeling ready to play now.”
He wasn't, he said, seeing this as anything more than a final rehab exercise – his heart still belongs to Teesside and the top flight.
“I'm going back to Middlesbrough. I've got another year left on their contract and I want to play in the Premiership – that's where I want to be really.
“But now I'm at Norwich and I always give 110 per cent – it doesn't matter where I play.”
As for where he does play, he has two strings to his bow in that he can play both at right-back and centre-half – it was in the former position, of course, that he bumped into Luke Chadwick on his debut at Portman Road. Roeder's remark that 'when he tackles you, you know you've been tackled…' will be a line that will cause a wry smile from the luckelss Canary winger.
Albeit via the sharp side of an advertising hoarding, his last meeting with Bates finished with three nights in Ipswich General Hospital.
“Centre-back,” said Bates simply, quizzed as to which was his preferred position. “I've played more games for the first team at centre-half, but I can fit in at right-back if needed.”
That lengthy spell on the sidelines has, it seems, fired up Bates even more.
“It put a lot of things into perspective,” he said. “That when I was back fit that going out on loan to a Championship club would be the best thing to do – to get games. And that's what I want to do here.
“I'm 21 now; I'm not a kid anymore; I've got to start playing games now.”
He has some catching up to do with Mr Wheater.
“I've played with him since I was maybe 12, 13,” said Bates. “He's always been a great player and it's great to see him come through and I'm sure there'll be more to come from him.”
Now, however, it was his turn. “The knee's fine. I'm just ready to play now…