City boss Glenn Roeder has less than 24-hours to make any final tweaks to his squad as the very final deadline of the season looms.
Given the way that the Football League has managed to worm its way out of FIFA's transfer window system via its 'emergency loan' routine, the reality is these days that loans can arrive at pretty much any stage of the season.
But come 5pm tomorrow afternoon and that is it. No more fresh faces to throw into battle for the final six games of the season; the age-old transfer deadline of the fourth Thursday in March holds sway. The shutters come down for another season.
With Maceo Rigters already in the building and another five loans already on the books – Ched Evans, Alex Pearce, Mo Camara, Ryan Bertrand and Kieran Gibbs – the City boss may well be loathe to add a seventh to the pack. For that, in turn, would then force him to leave at least two of the seven sat in the stands each game.
That said, however, and Roeder wasn't altogether ruling out the prospect of one, final swoop following Saturday's 5-1 demolition of Colchester United.
Quizzed as to whether Rigters' arrival had spurred Jamie Cureton into hat-trick life and Roeder's instant quip might prove telling.
“I better bring in another one next week then…” he said. The question also prompted the Canary manager to re-affirm his belief in competition for places bringing the best out of every player; that, perhaps, Cureton's hat-trick heroics owed much to the sight of the Dutch Under-21 international sat on the bench.
“There's nothing better, in my opinion, for motivation than thinking: 'My place is under threat…' said Roeder at the weekend.
“And I suppose with Maceo coming in, some of the strikers who thought they might be playing might not have slept so easy last night not knowing whether they were going to start or not.
“And often the basis of winning teams are teams that have got a big enough squad where players don't know if they are going to keep the shirt if they don't play well. It's much more difficult if you only have a small squad of 15 or 16 players and where players know that if they don't perform, they'll still perform next week. That's really unhealthy and that's what we've got to try and change here.
“We've got to try and put together a squad that's big enough that no-one is certain that they will play week in, week out. Because that's the way that it has to be.”
This final transfer deadline of the season also has a second purpose – it gives clubs the opportunity to bed 'loan' players into existing squads and new surroundings ahead of a full-time move in the summer; that the permanent paper-work is all but agreed; it just needs a few i's to to dot and t's to cross for the move to be set in stone once the summer transfer window opens for business again.
Given the huge rebuilding task that awaits the City boss in the summer, that thought might cross his mind – the short-term headache of fitting seven loan players into five squad 'holes' is out-weighed by the longer-term benefit of settling a player in a couple of months early.
Which is why, for example, the name of Shola Ameobi keeps doing the rounds in the North-East. The 26-year-old has struggled to make much of a dent in Kevin Keegan's thinking and has started just one game under the Toon messiah – his first game against Bolton Wanderers. The Evening Chronicle even reported training ground stories of the one-time England Under-21 striker skipping a reserve game to attend a rehearsal for his summer wedding. Keegan, however, insisted that was down to a knock.
In the same breath, however, the new Magpies chief said the Ameobi had to do more to force his way into his first team thinking.
“I wanted to play him in a reserve game last week, but he got a knock. That's why he wasn't involved,” said Keegan recently, before laying the gauntlet at Ameobi's feet.
“He's on the fringe of things at the moment, but it doesn't mean he hasn't got a part to play,” said Keegan, who finally earned his first win on his return to St James' on Saturday via goals from Mark Viduka and Michael Owen in that 2-0 win over Fulham.
Whether Ameobi is ever going to prise that pair apart is another matter – particularly with Obafemi Martins ahead of him. He has though almost twice as many United goals to his name than any other current member of that Newcastle squad – 46 as opposed to Martins' 24.
“It's up to him,” stressed Keegan. “I've had lots of chats with Shola since I've been here, and he's really got to force himself into the team a little bit more than he has in the past.”
The overall impression remains of a less than happy camper; a player that may well be itching for a new start elsewhere as his career drifts into the doldrums. His last goal for his home-town club came in October, 2006 – a penalty in the 2-1 home defeat by Bolton Wanderers, then managed by Roeder's successor at St James' Sam Allardyce.
Much water has flowed under the bridge since then and with Roeder having regularly aired his admiration for Ameobi – and the player himself spotting some very familiar faces in Norfolk in the shape of Roeder, his one-time coach as a kid Lee Clark and Matty Pattison – it is all-too easy to put two and two together and get four. Or at least four-and-a-half.
Again the way that Roeder has handled the whole 'Party' Pattison episode – complete with his emotional substitution in Saturday's 5-1 defeat of the U's – will have been seen by Ameobi. If he's a little out in the cold at St James', he knows exactly where a warm welcome from a 'family' might await.
The only fly in that particular speculative ointment is the fact that Ameobi is due to feature in a Newcastle United reserve match against Manchester United tomorrow night – and Norwich won't be the only club in the queue for his services. Both Ipswich Town and Plymouth Argyle have been linked to the player of late; neither, you suspect, would hold the appeal in Ameobi's eyes of teaming up with Roeder, Clark and Co.
Again, the fact that Ameobi's contract expires in the summer of 2009 will get people thinking; either he is offered – and signs – a new deal this summer or Newcastle risk seeing him walk for nothing at the end of next season. That they will be loathe to do. A parting of the ways looks increasingly inevitable.
Of course, in-coming loans might be matched by a couple of out-going loans with one or two of Roeder's younger hopefuls unlikely to feature much in the final weeks of the season. Chris Martin is the obvious loan target as he fails to recapture last season's heights. A short-term switch to a lower league club could well suit all concerned – particularly if Roeder has additional fire-power coming in.