City favourite Jamie Cureton was today giving himself an outside chance of being on the bus for the Walkers' Stadium this weekend after putting his appendix-lite body through a first run at Colney.
The 32-year-old caught everyone by surprise last week by disappearing for an appendectomy after complaining of severe stomach pains following the home clash with Preston North End.
With City boss Glenn Roeder having just missed out on his two January strike targets – Scunthorpe's Martin Paterson and Southampton's Grzegorz Rasiak – it left the Canary chief with little or no option but to continue with 38-year-old Dion Dublin and his teenage side-kick Ched Evans up front.
As luck would have it, the latter proved in inspired form at Ninian Park on Saturday. But with Roeder admitting that had Dublin started to struggle he would have had little choice but to ask Gary Doherty to head up-field as the on-loan Alex Pearce held the fort at the back, so Cureton's fitness becomes a hot topic of conversation.
And while tomorrow night's home clash with Hull City will come too soon for Norwich's top-scorer, the away trip to Leicester City this Saturday could be within his reach.
“It feels OK – I've done a run today and it feels a bit tender, but I think I've played with worse,” said Cureton, as he eases his post-op scar back into Championship battle.
The bigger pain was actually having to sit out this weekend's trip to South Wales after he had actually out-shone Evans in that Lilywhites' clash. Albeit only on as a second-half substitute, Cureton looked bright and lively and, indeed, forced a wonderful, instinctive save out of Preston keeper Andy Lonergan before Darel Russell's late effort finally stole the points.
The fact that he was clearly sporting an appendix that was fit to burst is to Cureton's credit.
“It was a bit of a shock having an op and stuff,” he said, as he looked back at an eventful weekend.
“I was fairly ill on the Thursday and I basically made a decision on the Saturday that I felt OK, so I put myself up to play; came on and felt OK – and everyone said I looked really sharp. So obviously the appendix must have done something!
“But as soon as the game finished I felt quite weak; didn't feel great,” said Cureton, about to go down-hill fast. “Sunday I was just in agony; didn't sleep. I came in Monday; said what was going on. They sent me for a scan and Monday night I had an op.”
Having given Roeder a choice to make by his efforts against Preston, that was his next worry – how long would he be on the sidelines?
“They were saying three weeks; some were saying two. It's just disappointing because I'm obviously trying to work my way into the team again and it was just another set-back. But coming in today, it actually feels alright so I'm a bit more positive.”
All of which will be music to Roeder's ears as he looks to either Doherty or Arsenal youngster Kieran Gibbs for strike cover.
In theory Chris Martin ought to be next in the pecking order, but given his weekend was devoted to a trip to London with Ricky Martin's Under-18s you wonder how far he is away from the manager's thoughts. It might just be another big prod to see if it prompts a reaction and gets Martin back to the Evans-like levels he was hitting himself this time last year.
“We pencilled in Barnsley, but if I can push for Saturday I will,” said Cureton, as he revised his own timetable on the back of this morning's first run-out. Such thoughts will, of course, equally depend on the thoughts of the medical and phsyio staff.
“Obviously it also depends on how my body feels, but we'll give it our best shot.”
A 20-minute run this morning “to get the cob-webs out” had gone OK. “The actual pain doesn't feel too bad. And like I say, I've probably played with worse injuries pain-wise, so we shall see. And I'm not one of them to be in the treatment room. If I can get out as soon as possible, I will.
“I'll be pushing them as much as I can to let me out and train.”
It was, clearly, not the best of weekends in one respect as Cureton watched Evans nail his place down with that two-goal haul. In every other, however, it would have been the perfect pick-me-up as Cureton senses something special in the wind – particularly given the fact that this weekend's result, coupled to events at Portman Road, leaves Norwich just four points shy of the neighbours.
“It was pleasing that we've kept the run going,” he said, with the Norfolk side now having gone 12 games without a defeat.
“It was a massive result; another great win. It's good – and, hopefully, I can come back and add something else to it,” he added.
That second derby date in the middle of April is, even now, shaping up to be very interesting as the two age-old rivals prepare to contest a place in the play-offs. The could, of course, still both finish in the top six – with all the possibilities that could bring.
Could the Canaries catch their sixth-placed neighbours? “I don't see why not,” said Cureton. “We're closing in on them and if we can catch them, then we are going to finish in a very strong position. So, yes, that's one little thing that we can aim for and see what happens after that.”