City boss Glenn Roeder will discover today the extent of Maceo Rigters' hamstring injury amid fears that the on-loan Blackburn Rovers striker may be making a Matthew Bates-like return to sender.
The Middlesbrough defender's loan spell was just three games old before he ruptured his cruciate knee ligaments for the third time in 16 wretched months and was duly returned to the Riverside for rehab.
Rigters' loan spell in Norfolk could prove even more short-lived after the former Dutch Under-21 international pulled up sharply little more than ten minutes after his second-half arrival in this weekend's 2-1 defeat at Bristol City.
In the end, of course, Rigters' misfortunes were wholly over-shadowed by Andy D'Urso's part in Norwich's downfall. But for all their best efforts and intentions, taken together the two events suggest that Lady Luck was dressed in a red-and-white scarf come Saturday's squall-lashed game at Ashton Gate.
“He's done a hamstring,” confirmed Roeder afterwards. “And I would say it's quite bad as well. You don't pull up that quickly…”
With Lee Croft already running riot away on the right, Darren Huckerby in goal-scoring mood on the left and ex-Bristol Rovers hero Jamie Cureton still intent on throwing a spanner into the Robins' promotion works, the 24-year-old Dutch man was finding plenty of space to play in as he replaced Dion Dublin on the hour mark. Alas 16 minutes later and the substitute was being substituted as Ched Evans was thrown into the fray for the final, fraught 20 minutes.
“The little brief spell that he was on, he was causing problems,” said the City chief, his frustration clear.
“He's such a bright lad and his runs are intelligent – it would have been interesting if we could have kept him on.” As for whether that was that for Rigters this season, Roeder wasn't too hopeful that the Dutchman would figure again with just five games and five weeks to go.
“Possibly – an hour after the game, you can't say for sure. But I would say there's a fair bleed in there,” he said.
The only other injury absentee was Gary Doherty who failed to travel to the West Country with his back strain. The one-time Republic of Ireland international disappeared at half-time in last week's 5-1 dismissal of Colchester United and should, Roeder said, be fit again for this weekend's home clash with Burnley.
Whether he will force his way back into the manager's thinking is another matter after both Jason Shackell and the on-loan Alex Pearce coped admirably with both the Robins and the appalling weather conditions. After all, Canary keeper David Marshall barely touched the ball after the break; his one and only real 'touch' of the ball was to pick Steve Brooker's 93rd minute header out of the back of his net.
“Next week he'll be fine,” said Roeder, quizzed as to Doherty's fitness. “But having said that I thought the two centre-backs were outstanding. Absolutely outstanding. In fact all the players have put in a proper performance.”
The fact that it came against the team now in the box seat to win an automatic promotion to the Premiership merely added to Roeder's fury at D'Urso's role in events.
“This team is going into the Premiership. No doubt about it – with luck like that,” added the Canary chief. In fairness, it was a very bright and open contest – a credit to both teams given the unrelenting squall in which the game was played. Not that would cheer Roeder on his way home.
“It was a super game of football – there was a lot of passing. And the one thing about Bristol City and Gary Johnson is that his team play good football. And they did today – except we played better. A lot better.”
In the meantime, further details were emerging over Stoke City's loan swoop for long-term Canary transfer target Shole Ameobi with Roeder suggesting the Potters had taken an “amazing” gamble on the injury-prone 26-year-old. Particularly if last week's short-term loan led to a reported ?5 million, full-time switch this summer.
Stoke chief executive Tony Scholes refused to rule out the possibility of a 'gentleman's agreement' this summer for the Newcastle United striker, but insisted that it was not at the ?5 million mark that Roeder had suggested on the back of his discussions with Newcastle's transfer chief, Dennis Wise.
“There is the possibility of a permanent deal, but not at the numbers being quoted,” Scholes told the Stoke Sentinel over the weekend.
“We are not going to discuss the terms of any future deal except to say I don't know where Glenn Roeder has got his numbers from. They are not the numbers we have talked about and are certainly not what we will be paying.”
Come Sunday, however, and the Mail On Sunday was citing the Ameobi switch as 'the most expensive loanee in English club history'.
The Mail quoted a figure of ?575,000 for Ameobi's six-week stay at the Britannia – a loan fee that could rise to nearer the ?1 million mark if Stoke reach the Premiership via the play-offs. Over and above that ?575,000 loan fee, the Potters will also be covering the player's ?25,000 per week wages, claimed The Mail – another ?150,000 commitment.
“We wouldn't want to look back and think we haven't had a go,” Coates was quoted as saying in the paper. “We have done a deal and taken that risk. There are no guarantees but we're trying not to miss out.”
Ameobi started Stoke's game at Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday. They drew 1-1.
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