City supporters desperately scanning the horizon for the first signs of transfer life this summer could, you suspect, do worse than turn their attentions east – all the way to the Russian city of Minsk.
For there Brian Eastwick's England Under-19 outfit are in the midst of the Elite qualifying rounds for next summer's European Under-19 Championships. Scan through the list of players on duty and there are no less than six with Norwich City 'connections'.
Or at least six so far. For with City chief Glenn Roeder making it quite apparent that he will be throwing himself right back into the Premiership loan market next season, you wonder just how many of Eastwick's young starlets might have already been noted in the City manager's notebook – over and above the usual suspects.
Canary loan star Kieran Gibbs played the full 90 minutes in yesterday's 2-0 win over Serbia at the start of this week's four-team qualifying tournament with the England youngsters due to face Serbia in their second match of the week tomorrow.
Chelsea teenager Ryan Bertrand – who like Gibbs spent the second half of the season on loan at Carrow Road – was an unused substitute, while Reading winger James Henry replaced Daniel Sturridge of Manchester City after the break. Henry, of course, arrived at Colney alongside his Reading pal Alex Pearce only to be returned to sender as he failed to make much of a dent on Roeder's first team thinking.
Sturridge is the Eastlands youngster that may yet knock Ched Evans down the pecking order in the midst of the shambles that is Manchester City, while both Newcastle United's Andy Carroll and Chelsea's Jack Cork have both found themselves linked to loan switches to Norfolk next season – Cork on the back of a successful spell at Scunthorpe this campaign.
He, you suspect, is unlikely to follow The Iron round League One next autumn and as long as Frank Arnesen survives within the Chelsea set-up following Avram Grant's exit this weekend, so Chelsea's head scout – the man responsible for bringing the likes of Salomon Kalou and John Obi Mikel to the Bridge – could yet have Roeder back on the phone to see whether Bertrand and Cork would be coming out to play again.
The other little starlet catching everyone's eye of late is West Ham's teenage striker Freddie Sears who did his blossoming reputation no harm with both goals in that 2-0 win. Sears' summer just gets better and better after the Hornchurch-born 18-year-old scored six minutes into his Hammers' Premiership debut in March – the winner, to boot, in the 2-1 win over Blackburn Rovers.
The young striker would go on to make just one start – at home to the long-doomed Derby County – as well as five more substitute appearances. The return to full fitness of the likes of Kieron Dyer and Craig Bellamy may yet, however, limit the youngster's chances of regular football next season. And if Hammers boss Alan Curbishley believes he has out-grown reserve team football then he would be an obvious one to further his education in the Championship for at least the first half of the season.
The one certainty amongst all such guessing games is that – in every likelihood – all the kids mentioned above will enjoy a full pre-season with their 'mother' clubs before being packed off to school mid-August time.
It would be quite a feat to see a Bertrand or an Evans walking back through the gates of Colney in the first week of July – as Roeder himself admitted at the start of the summer.
“I'd like as many as possible [to be in by the start of pre-season] – but that won't be achievable,” said Roeder. “It's unlikely that Manchester United will have every player that they want in place by the first day of pre-season training. They'll purchase someone after they come back for pre-season training.
“So ideally yes, but realistically that's not going to happen.”
Particularly where his Premiership loans are concerned – loans that could again number four or five as the Canary chief wrings every last advantage out of his weighty contacts book.
“That's the downside – that you might have to wait to the last week before the window closes; before a manager decides he can afford to let that lad go – even for just one window.
“So we need to get our signings in first – our contracted players and leave some room for three, four, who knows? Five loan players at the start of the season,” said the City chief, clearly out to exploit that loan market to the full again.
“People moaned about us and one or two other clubs exploiting this – it wasn't exploiting it, we were playing within the rules. Which you are allowed to do.”
As for Evans, the prospect of his first full Welsh international cap – and all now armed with a new, three-year contract at Eastlands – means that his summer is already off to a flier.
No surprise to find the 19-year-old looking to a bright future in the Premiership next season; the reality, however, may yet prove slightly different given the whole, poisonous atmosphere that surrounds the club with Sven-Goran Eriksson's future so much in doubt. Whoever comes in, his first move will be to buy big – if only to appease the Manchester City faithful. Buys big and buys up front and Evans' hopes of regular football could still be swiftly dashed.
For now, however, all is very rosy in the garden – as he told the www.icwales.co.uk website.
“I am back at Manchester City now, and with a new three-year contract, so I am really pleased with the way things have gone,” he said. “It means a lot to me to get a new contract with City. I have grown up there and I want to play in the first team there now and be a regular.”
In the meantime, however, it was a case of getting a big nod off Wales boss John Toshack.
“For me to maybe win my first full cap for Wales this week either in Iceland or Holland would be the perfect end to a great season for me,” he added. “And when I go back for pre-season, I will be firing on all cylinders and trying to impress whoever is the manager by then.”