City boss Glenn Roeder this afternoon held out the tantalising prospect of a “softer than expected landing” on the back of Darren Huckerby's exit this week.
Speaking at length as to his summer planning now the dust was finally starting to settle on his first, half-season in charge Roeder made it clear what a difficult decision it had been to release the 32-year-old Canary favourite; how there was never any bad blood between them; how the two-time City Player of the Year would always be welcome to re-join training back at Colney as and when his new commitments allowed; how, above all, his decision was influenced by at least two, younger transfer tricks he had up his sleeve.
And, no, he wouldn't be naming names. “Patience is a great virtue,” he said. “Who wants to know their Christmas presents on the first of December? Unless you're a six-year-old? All I know is that there are going to be Christmas presents on the 25th. But you've got to wait.”
The greatest interest, of course, will concern his thinking on Huckerby as the the long-time Canary favourite now prepares for a new life away from Norfolk. Roeder was left with the firm impression that that new life will, indeed, be abroad somewhere – in line with Frank Yallop's suggestion this morning that North America is about to welcome the Canary winger with open arms.
“It was a tough call,” said Roeder, as he gave the first, full explanation of this week's decision for club and player to go their seperate ways.
“It wasn't a decision that was made easily – or quickly,” said Roeder, picking his words very carefully – all too aware of the fierce emotions that sections of the Canary support have on the matter.
He wasn't deaf to the chorus of 'Roeder, Roeder, sign him up! Sign him up!' that followed the final lap of honour after the home clash with Queen's Park Rangers – a point at which no-one was any the wiser as to which way the Huckerby wind was blowing.
“I've seen by the reaction of our supporters after the final home game of the season against QPR how dear he [Huckerby] is to them.
“And rightly so. Things that he did here were quite amazing for the club, but Darren Huckerby would never, ever expect to be a player that was in the team, out of the team. He's earned the right to be a first-team player week in, week out.”
And that was the kind of guarantee that Roeder felt ill-placed to offer – particularly given the other irons he had in the fire. Everyone moves on and as is all-too often the way with new managers, they have a new way of doing things; new priorities, new agendas and new faces to fit.
Kieran Gibbs was the obvious example this season. The 18-year-old is that highly regarded by all at Arsenal that he found himself whisked out of Roeder's hands and straight onto the bench for last weekend's clash with Everton. If Roeder can prise the teenager back out of the Emirates for another window-to-window loan spell next August, it causes Roeder a problem if he has Huckerby to fit into his left-sided thinking.
“I've targetted one or two other players that are a lot younger that I think I can bring to the club to play in that position and, hopefully, give us good service.
“And I think there comes a time for certain players – and Darren would be one of those – that if you're not going to be in the first couple of names on the team-sheet then perhaps it is time to move on,” added Roeder, about to fuel the speculation that wherever Huckerby ended up next August he would need a passport to get there – something that continues to rule out Neil Warnock's hopes of ever luring his long-time target to south London.
“He's always had an ambition to play abroad – he's told me that a number of times,” said Roeder, who in the course of their fateful conversation on Tuesday reached for a piece of advice handed to him by one of his great, coaching mentors – ex-Rangers and England boss, Terry Venables.
“Terry was always a great one for talking to players – not always about football, but life in general. And he would say to us: 'Glenn, if you're going to have any regrets in life, regret doing it – don't regret not doing it…'
“And I said to Darren [on Tuesday] if that's your ambition to play abroad, do it. Don't become an old man and regret it. And find yourself saying: 'If only I'd gone abroad and played…' And if you've got this opportunity – which he keeps telling me he has – then take it with both hands. And if it doesn't go right, it doesn't go right – but at least you did it.
“Whenever there's a door that's ajar, whenever there's an opportunity, as Terry would say: 'Kick it down… smash you're way through it. And when you do that, it's amazing – you don't often have too many regrets in your life.
“That was just a little bit of advice I gave him and he quite liked it; he quite agreed with it.”
The two had not fallen out; and it was a tough call – on both issues, Roeder was quite insistent. “Don't let anybody think that the decision to let Darren Huckerby go was taken quickly or without great thought.
“And contrary to popular belief – what the negative people in this world would want to believe – that we didn't get on, we never had a bad day of any consequence whatsoever.
“Like every single player here – including the captain – occasionally they get a little bit of the temper that I've got that you don't ever see, but rare. No need to. A fantastic professional. I haven't got anything other to say to Darren all credit for everything you've done at Norwich and, for me personally, in the short time that I've been here and I wish you and your family all the luck in the world.”
Their final parting was more of an invitation – one which Huckerby was more than happy to accept.
“He left the office by me saying – and which he wanted to hear – that if he does go abroad and the playing seasons are different and he's back in this country, don't stay at home and get under your wife's feet come up here and use our facilities. And he said: 'Thank you! That's fantastic..! I will definitely do that.' So I'm sure we're definitely going to see him around the place next year.
“The only difference is that it won't be in a Norwich shirt, but I've had a couple of targets in mind for three or four months now that – I hope – will become new heroes. But you can't spend your life in the past.”
As for the whole issue of the timing of Huckerby's exit – his lack of a more formal chance to say: 'Farewell!' to his legions of supporters, Roeder was unmoved. The decision was made at the end of the season.
“I don't know what the fuss is about – I really don't. When the season is finished most other clubs let supporters know which players are being retained or not. Anyone who looks as that as a sleight against me or against Darren are completely wrong.
“They come and they go – it's a hero at this football club and always will be,” added Roeder, offering that tantalising hint of heroes yet to come.
“We move on with really a new team next year and I feel pretty confident that I will land at least one or two players that I can't tell you about at this time – but if I get the one that I'm particularly thinking about it will be a real pleasant surprise. So maybe the landing will be a little bit softer than people are trying to make out.”