City chief Glenn Roeder this morning tried to resist rising to any bait that Foxes' boss Ian Holloway might offer ahead of tomorrow's trip to the Walkers Stadium after the latter accused his Norwich counterpart of being “bang out of order” in the midst of last month's 0-0 draw at Carrow Road.
An always tetchy game exploded into life just before the interval as City midfielder Darel Russell leaped at a loose ball deep inside the Leicester City six-yard box and caught keeper Ben Alnwick.
The Foxes' No1 then proceeded to jump onto the prone Russell sparking a momentary free-for-all – and one that then extended to the touchline as tempers flared.
Reminded of the incident – and Holloway's subsequent comments afterwards – the City boss tried to his best not to re-ignite any ill-feeling.
“It's not about what happens on the touch-line tomorrow – it's about what happens on the pitch,” said Roeder, who on Cardiff City form will be well out of the way anyway – watching events unfold from on high in the directors box.
“But when I think I need to stand up for my players, I will stand up for them,” said Roeder, with Holloway's calls for Russell to be sent off pushing the Norwich manager's buttons.
“I'm assuming that Ian didn't like me telling him that he was out of order trying to convince the referee that one of our players should have been sent-off – but it's something that I wouldn't stoop to.
“I was only standing up for my players and it was a mountain out of a mole-hill as far as I was concerned.”
The Foxes boss couldn't let the matter lie on the day and returned to the whole incident the following week in his regular column for the BBC's football website. Only this time, he had added a few more details.
He had, he claimed, just been having a bit of banter with City No2 Lee Clark, when he locked horns with Roeder.
“Then his manager came running down after another two-footed tackle by Darel Russell, who is sometimes a bit over-competitive – although I love that in people. He really wants to win and I haven't got a problem with that,” Holloway wrote in his BBC column.
“I just pointed out to the referee that it was another two-footed tackle, but I didn't try to get him sent off. I was complaining about the tackle on my goalie.
“So Glenn came down shouting at me and he was bang out of order. He did it for effect, he did it to affect the fans around him, and I more than told him so.
“I said: 'Who the hell do you think you are?' after the game. But never mind. Good luck to him and good luck to his team. They clawed their way back from five points adrift at the bottom of the table, so well done to them.”
Likewise, Roeder was happy enough to be proffer an olive branch – appearing genuinely surprised that the Foxes found themselves in such a difficult position after the clutch of new players that both Holloway and owner Milan Mandaric have brought to the club.
Three straight defeats – the last to a ten-man Watford side – have left the Foxes perched just two points above the drop zone.
“I have to say that I'm really surprised that so far they haven't done better,” he said. “They've spent money which is one of the reasons that I'm surprised that they've not done better.
“And I'm sure that they'll be looking to do better tomorrow. But we've got to be selfish and only worry about ourselves. It's a harsh game.”
As Arsenal youngster Kieran Gibbs discovered on his Norwich debut on Tuesday night.
With Matthew Bates now back at the Riverside following his injury heart-break, Roeder has one less loan player left to sit in the stands – only one has to miss out tomorrow.
With Mo Camara 'rested' for the Hull City game and Alex Pearce now touted as Jon Otsemobor's understudy at right-back, the fact that Ched Evans and Ryan Bertrand are probably among the first names on the manager's team sheet leaves the odd man out title to be fought between the two 18-year-olds – Gibbs and Reading winger James Henry.
Roeder was giving nothing away – other than to confess again that, in part, Norwich only had themselves to blame for Gibbs' largely anonymous opener.
“It was certainly a new experience for him,” said the City boss. “Having to play in a full-bloodied Championship game where the retention of the ball – by both sides – is not what he's used to.
“But that's all part of his education and for his first game for us I wasn't disappointed.
“And I told him that afterwards and I'm sure that from that experience that the next time he plays he will do better,” added Roeder, well aware that the teenager was barely given a sniff of the ball as the on-form Lee Croft was fed out wide on the right time and time again.
“I thought we really starved him of the ball in the first-half – I think it was ten minutes before he got a touch and I was sitting there thinking: 'Let's get the ball out wide to the left…' although Crofty was doing very well down on the right-hand side.
“But at times we turned away and didn't give the young man the ball, so he wasn't allowed to get involved in the game as much as I would like to. And that wasn't his fault.
“Wide players can quite often have a quiet game and that's because they've been starved of the ball. And we did that with Kieran.
“But I've seen enough of him in training to know why Arsene Wenger thinks so highly of him.”
He did, he admitted, still need to fill out to hsi full “man strength”; Pearce, by contrast, already looks the finished article despite being just a year older than the Arsenal starlet.
“He's a strong young man and I'm really looking forward to playing him,” said Roeder, who could, of course, rest Jon Otsemobor's Achilles again and throw Pearce in at right-back. You strongly sense that for all the flair and trickery that the others possess, it is the strapping centre-half that has caught Roeder's imagination on the training ground.
“The recommendation I got for him from somene I trust very much at Reading – who worked for me at West Ham – said you'll very much love his character and his personality. And I do.
“Being a manager would be so much easier if every character was like Alex Pearce. I really, really want to get him in the team, but at the moment Doc (Gary Doherty) and Shackell are doing well. I've spoken to Alex and he understands.”
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