City boss Glenn Roeder has laid a big, gauntlet at the feet of teenage striker Chris Martin – you better be fit for the start of pre-season…
Having burst onto the first team scene with such a bang last spring as the then 18-year-old smashed home four goals in four games in the wake of Robert Earnshaw's injury, the England Under-19 striker has sat on the sidelines this season and watched Ched Evans steal all his thunder.
Ability-wise, and for many there is little to choose between the two 19-year-olds; both are big, strong and more than capable of physically holding their own in this division – and both have a thumping finish to their game.
But since signing that three-and-a-half year contract with the Canaries last season, Martin's star has waned in fairly dramatic fashion – stories of him being banned from every pub in the Waveney valley doing little to endear him to Roeder after a season of distinct under-achievement.
The kid's got it – that's the frustation. But speaking to the Press on Friday afternoon, the Canary chief gave the distinct impression that if Martin's contract had been of the 12-month variety, he would have been following the likes of the Jarvis' brothers, Patrick Bexfield, Bally Smart and Andrew Cave-Brown out of the exit door.
The fact is, however, that Martin is contracted to the club till 2010. Plenty of time, in theory, to get his teenage excesses out of the system. In practice, Roeder is unlikely to prove the indulgent type.
“Let's say he wasn't one of those who left here with a single – he's got a return ticket,” said the Canary chief, about to issue his latest word of warning to last season's teenage sensation.
“He's coming back to the club on the first of July – and he knows he needs to come back in pristine condition. And not come back needing the first couple of weeks to get fit. He needs to come back fit.”
I can't, said Roeder, baby-sit these players; at some stage they have to take responsibility for their own actions – and their own professional careers. And in Martin's case, his career is in his own hands.
“I can't live with these players 24 hours a day – to be honest, two hours a day is quite often enough. The thought of living with them for 24 hours is horrific.”
So, in Martin's case, is there a penny that needs to drop? “What about a cannon-ball?” asked Roeder, his patience clearly tested by a player whose Saturdays have recently included a return to Ricky Martin's Youth team set-up – a far, far cry from grabbing your first international youth goal on your England Under-19 debut.
“He needs to sort himself out,” said the manager. “Every time I have him in the office, he agrees with what I say.
“He looks you in the eye like a man – like you'd want people to. And I can't stand people who don't have eye contact – and he does that. And you think: 'Good!'
“And then he leaves the training ground and all sorts of things happen which shouldn't,” added Roeder, with – you suspect – more than a passing reference to drinking time in the Waveney Valley on his mind.
It may well be a case of wrong time, wrong place for one of the more famous famous in Beccles, but it doesn't help his cause. Nor does, in Roeder's eyes, a casual attitude work-wise on the pitch.
“I've always maintained that anyone can run around – that's the easy bit to bring to the party. All our supporters would die to put the shirt on and they'd run around – some might last a minute, some might last to half-time if they're super-fit. But they'd run around until they'd keel over.
“Sometimes you look at players and say: 'You're not running around enough… you're not putting your body under the pressure that you should. You're not hurting enough.
“And Chrissy's one of those. He stands up there and he doesn't move – he doesn't run and he's a teenager. His career is in his hands, not in mine.”
One option was the Ryan Jarvis treatment – a chance for Martin to sample life outside the cossetted world of Colney. If the theory was with Jarvis Snr that the short, sharp shock of having to wash your own kit every day would convince the one-time England Under-16 sensation that he needed to step up to the plate rather more often it didn't appear to work with loan spells at first Kilmarnock and then Notts County failing to bring the real Ryan Jarvis to the fore.
He is out of the door – and left hoping that someone will take a chance on a young man that once scored a peach of a goal in the Premiership against the mighty Liverpool.
Martin could clearly be following in Javis' foot-steps as Roeder begins making plans to bring more Ched Evans-types into the fold next season. Given the turmoil unfolding at the Eastlands on the back of yesterday's 8-1 defeat to Boro', Roeder could yet have every chance of bringing the real thing back to Carrow Road next season.
“Maybe he [Martin] needs to go out on loan for a year – to see what it's like away from Norwich. To realise how good a club Norwich is; how good we look after people,” said Roeder.
“These players are looked after the same as Premiership players – they don't want for anything here. Nothing at all. They've got – it's here. Want that? Got it. Everything.
“So go and ask Ryan Jarvis what life at Notts County's like. At lots of clubs you still have to wash your own kit. Here everything's laid out in the mornings for them. Nicely ironed; smells nice when you put it on.”
A degree in common sense is, said Roeder, the most important qualification in life. Whatever walk you are in. Unfortunately, that's not on the curriculum at Colney.
“That's what my wife always says to me: 'Glenn, common sense isn't always in the abundance that it should be… But it's probably the best degree to ever get in life. Forget about university; have a degree in common sense and you won't go far wrong,” added the City chief.
“Most of the successful people that I've come across in my life – mainly owners of football clubs, etc – all left school with no qualifications other than bundles of motivation and common sense. And are driven people.
“And that's what we've got to try and find – some driven people back in here by the first of July.”