Evidence that City boss Glenn Roeder might just be clearing the decks for a late strike in the emergency loan market arrived this afternoon when Norwich's official club website announced that James Henry had returned to sender.
The 18-year-old Reading winger made just one start and one substitute appearance in his six-week spell in Norfolk having originally arrived as part of a loan 'pair' with centre-half Alex Pearce.
But with Roeder only ever able to field five loan signings in his 16, with six still in the building following Matthew Bates' return to Middlesbrough one of the manager's part-time employees always had to be sat in the stands come match day.
More often than not, and that one was Henry – hence the decision for the England Under-19 teenager to cut short his loan spell in Norfolk and return to the Thames Valley.
“I spoke to Nick Hammond, the director of football at Reading last week and he was concerned James wasn't getting involved as much as he would like him to be and that it was best if he went back to Reading,” Roeder told the official website this afternoon.
The lad is clearly rated back at the Madejski – he agreed a new contract with the Royals whilst up in Norfolk; one that ties him to Reading until 2010.
A right-sided winger, Roeder was always going to be faced with the tricky decision of whether to hand Henry games at Lee Croft's expense.
In his one start for the Canaries – away at The Walkers Stadium in that miserable 4-0 defeat – Henry struggled to make much of an impact as the pitch, in particular, proved ill-suited to his thoroughbred Premiership starlet needs.
Roeder was, however, at pains to stress that, in every likelihood, a big top flight career beckoned. It just didn't quite happen in Norfolk this spring.
“I'd like to place on record my thoughts that although he didn't break into the first team as much as would have been ideal during his time here, he was always a pleasure to work with and he's a very talented player,” said the City chief.
“I'm sure he will go on to be an excellent player for Reading in the future.”
Look back now at those frantic last 72 hours in the January transfer window, and as Roeder desperately looked to claw in players from whatever Premiership source he could, so events, in part, conspired against him.
For the last call of transfer deadline day came from the Eastlands where Sven-Goran Eriksson had agreed to extend Ched Evans' loan deal over and beyond the original, one-month deal.
With Gary Cahill's switch to Bolton knocking the chase for Martin Taylor on the head as Blues decided he simply wasn't for sale, so Roeder had to find himself at least one more centre-half – in the end, he took a punt on Matthew Bates' fitness and decided that the Reading 'pair' of Alex Pearce and Henry could cover all manner of eventualities. For example, Eriksson sticking to his original position that Evans would be back home in Manchester before February was out.
The 'Reading Two' had already been out on loan together earlier this season at Bournemouth and clearly Royals boss Steve Coppell wished for that to continue; one story was that Spurs' interest in Henry was rebuffed for just that reason – that he only came as a pair.
With Kieran Gibbs in the building with at least half an eye on forming a loan relationship with Arsenal that would extend into next season and Ryan Bertrand fast proving his worth on his loan switch from Chelsea, Roeder was clearly of a mind to fill Colney with extra bodies – to not leave himself short of cover as the business end of the season loomed.
Again, Bolton's loan swoop for Southampton's Grzegorz Rasiak complicated the position further in that suddenly Evans' longer loan deal needed to happen once Norwich missed out on their full-time transfer target.
Put all that little lot together and come February 1 and the Canaries had seven loans for five places – with the inevitable complications that that entailed.
Bates' disappearance after his knee ligament curse returned dropped that number down to six. But with Croft proving largely the part on the right and Leicester (a) suggesting that swapping Croft to the left to accommodate Henry on the right probably wasn't the answer, so the Reading youngster invariably found himself parked in the stands – all to Hammond's disappointment.
With his departure leaving just five loans in the building, Roeder has now given himself further room to manoeuvre in terms of bringing in an extra loan striker – something that he insisted after first the Stoke defeat and then again after the 2-0 reverse at Sheffield United that was now high on his list of priorities.
As will sorting out the whole Matty Pattison situation as the one-time Newcastle United midfielder managed to complete a magnificent weekend by getting himself arrested and charged in relation to an alleged drink-driving offence at Colney on Sunday morning.
Roeder at least has Darel Russell to call upon again for this weekend's crucial home clash with Championship strugglers Colchester United, but Pattison's brush with the law must have been as welcome as a hole in the head for the City chief ahead of this evening's Q&A with the Norwich City Independent Supporters Association.
As ever with all things Canary, it never rains but it pours. The one and only silver lining to a pretty wretched weekend came courtesy of Southampton who not only managed to ship five goals in a truly hapless display at Hull City, but also found stars Bradley Wright-Phillips and Nathan Dyer embroiled in theft allegations after being caught on CCTV with pals in the staff cloakroom of a Southsea night-spot.
Leave a Reply