City boss Glenn Roeder caught one or two people on the hop this afternoon by all but confirming that he wouldn't be dipping his toe in the loan market again this spring – despite having just lost top-scorer Jamie Cureton to an appendix operation.
Speaking to the club's CanariesWorld TV service, the Canary manager admitted that Cureton's unexpected date with the surgeon was a “real nuisance”, but then revealed that he did not expect to add an eighth loan to his squad.
“No, I don't think so,” he said. In part that may be a case of sheer availability, but equally that may well be down to the fact that he already has seven loan signings in the building following last week's arrival of Messrs Gibbs, Bates, Pearce and Henry to add to Ched Evans, Ryan Bertrand and Mo Camara.
Having promised all four of last week's arrivals that they will play – and with similar undertakings, presumeably, already given to both Chelsea boss Avram Grant and Sven Goran Eriksson at Manchester City re Bertrand and Evans respectively – Roeder is going to have enough trouble keeping seven loan players happy, let alone an additional eighth.
He can, of course, only ever name five in a 16-strong squad. Two are always going to have to miss out; making that three will – inevitably – mean (a) disappointing one extra player every week and (b) potentially going back on his word to their full-time employers.
The whole issue would not have come to a head had Roeder been able to prise one of his permanent transfer targets out of Scunthorpe United and Southampton. Martin Paterson found a ?5 million price tag being slapped on his head while it was Bolton's offer of Premiership football at the Reebok that lured Grzegorz Rasiak to the Reebok on loan ahead of a full-time deal in Norfolk.
Thereafter and it was Sod's Law that Cureton's appendix would go AWOL within 24-hours of the window closing.
“We've got seven loan players in at the moment and as everyone knows, we can only use five in any one game,” Roeder explained to CanariesWorld this lunchtime.
“So every game with the seven there's going to be a couple of them that are not going to be involved and that's going to be disappointing for them.
“Especially as all seven are very, very good players.”
All of which ensures that for the next ten days, Roeder has just three out-and-out strikers at his disposal – the 38-year-old Dion Dublin and the teenage pair of Ched Evans and Chris Martin.
Both, in fairness, have been among the goals this week – Evans grabbing another brace for the Welsh Under-21s, whilst Martin made it five in two reserve games with that hat-trick against Luton Town Reserves on Monday.
Roeder remains hugely sceptical of just what sort of 'challenge' Grays Athletic reserves have posed the Beccles 19-year-old as Paul Stephenson watched the City string stroll to a 7-1 win. Which is another of Roeder's little bug-bears with Martin.
“He's got the ability,” said Roeder, who gave the England Under-19 striker his latest chance in the FA Cup clash with Bury – and promptly hauled him off after 45 minutes.
“And I think that Chris himself will be the first to admit that he didn't play particularly well against Bury,” the City chief told CanariesWorld, as he looks to Martin to up his work-rate and not just stroll about scoring goals.
“It's not all about standing up through the middle – you've got to work hard for the team when you're not in possession too. And he finds that quite difficult.
“He knows how to find the back of the net; he has the ability. But hopefully the penny will drop that if you're not running round enough, you're not going to get those opportunities. It's up to him – all I can do is give them the stage to go out and play on. Then they have to go out and produce.”
Stephenson appeared more taken by Martin's efforts at Kenilworth Road this week than he was by his performance against Grays. And with Cureton now out of the running for at least the next ten days and a mid-week home game against Hull City likely to test Dublin's 38-year-old limbs to the limit, it is clear that much might rest on Martin replicating the form he showed this time last year.
There are, of course, other alternatives up Roeder's sleeve – even within what appears to be a striker-thin squad. He could ask Darren Huckerby and Dublin to roll back the years and re-create the kind of attacking menace they brought to the party at Coventry City in the top flight some dozen-odd years ago.
Likewise, while the on-loan James Henry looks an out-and-out winger of the David Bentley variety, Kieran Gibbs' ability to play centre-midfield and/or left midfield should, you suspect, include an ability to paly further forward if needs really pushed.
That is, after all, part of the Arsene Wenger philosophy – that you produce pure footballers that have both the technical ability and the mental strength to play wherever they're asked. From right-back to left-wing, they can play.
There is, of course, one final alternative should Dublin's 38 years catch up with him. That with both Alex Pearce and Matthew Bates now in the building and offering a whole new range of alternatives in defence, Gary Doherty could be asked to fill Dublin's shoes. Not ideal, but needs sometimes must.
Either way, it is clear that this weekend's trip to Cardiff City will see last week's four new faces play a far more prominent role in City's fortunes with Gibbs, in particular, likely to make his first contribution to the cause.
“I've been delighted with the four that we brought in last week,” Roeder told CanariesWorld. “You can see that they are of Premiership standard and have come from Premiership clubs.”
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