Glenn Roeder's summer-long quest to bang the last – and biggest – piece into his 2008-2009 jigsaw continued to draw a big, fat blank this morning. Albeit not for the want of endlessly trying.
Indeed, as he hosted his first officical, pre-match Press conference of the new season at Colney this morning, the City boss revealed that he thought he had a deal done yesterday – only for the goal-posts to move again at the eleventh hour.
Confirming in public the arrival of Spurs teenager Troy Archibald-Henville on a year-long loan deal, it was clear that Roeder's urgent quest to secure a big target man continues to dominate his thinking; as ever, there were no names but Shola Ameobi – almost inevitably – appeared to fit the bill.
Was there still a chance that he could get Johnny X in before the season kicks-off?
“Yes – but it's not going to happen,” said Roeder, as keeps trying to prise his Dion Dublin-esque replacement out of the club concerned. Grzegorz Rasiak is another possibility as a cash-strapped Southampton look to off-load their better-paid players before the administrators start to call.
Either way, there are some big games being played.
“The last big piece of the jigsaw for me is that physical presence up through the middle and we have targetted one player in particular, but his club is being very difficult. Not to deal with, but to hold them to a promise that they made to the player – let's put it like that.”
Once again, thoughts turn to events on Tyneside where Kevin Keegan found himself with little or no alternative but to throw Ameobi into action for their tour game against Hertha Berlin last week. Though the 26-year-old tweaked a hamstring in the process and hasn't featured since, nor have Michael Owen, Mark Viduka or Obafemi Martins – all of whom are boasting various, short-term injuries.
Alan Smith was also notable by his absence from the 2-2 draw against PSV Eindhoven with the word now that he will be joining Everton in a cut-price deal; likewise the fact that Newcastle were being linked to a move for Northern Ireland's much-travelled David Healy all smacks of a club starting to lower their sights transfer-wise if – as some suggest – Mike Ashley's love affair with the Toon Army is on the wane.
Trying to negotiate their way through all the above might test the most patient of men – particularly if Ameobi himself is keen to enjoy a reunion with his long-time pal and early mentor, Lee Clark.
“I don't want to go into too many games without that type of striker,” admitted Roeder, with three similar peas from the same-looking pod in Jamie Cureton, Arturo Lupoli and 'OJ', Omar Koroma.
“I'm happy with the two boys that we've signed,” said Roeder, admitting that he had cast his eye over Clinton Morrison this summer.
“But, this year, as far as team re-building is concerned, that large, physical striker is the one that we're seeking. And Morrison's not that.”
Were they edging ever closer? “I thought we would have done yesterday, but as I say we got knocked back again. But we will keep going; keep pursuing it and try and make the club keep to the promise that it made to the player.”
His one injury question mark ahead of tomorrow's Championship opener at Coventry City was at left-back where both Ryan Bertrand (ankle) and Adam Drury (hamstring) remained doubtful.
Bertrand faces a late fitness test today before Roeder decides whether or not to give him a ticket to the Ricoh.
“Hopefully, he'll make it – if he doesn't then he'll certainly be fit next week. We won't take a chance with him – we're just hopeful,” he said.
At least Roeder still has ex-skipper Adam Drury up his sleeve; the problem there is the weakened hamstring – now minus the tissue the surgeons 'borrowed' to repair his damaged knee. Softly, softly is the approach. But he has, at least, been training this week with the first team.
After that and the depth of Roeder's re-built squad is such that he could now – at a push – play either Matty Pattison or Jason Shackell in that left-back berth with Wes Hoolahan stepping into Darren Huckerby's shoes on the left-hand side of midfield.
“All Adam is lacking is match practice,” said Roeder, yet to see the long-serving Canary defender in match action after Drury's long-term knee injury found him on the treatment table since the day the new manager arrived.
“I think Adam's got a better chance – put it that way,” added the City chief, quizzed as to which one might make the trip to the Ricoh. “Adam's been out training with us for a number of days and his hamstring has been looking fine.
“He's trained very hard this week and the one thing with Adam Drury – having now really got to know him – is the fact that he's a superb pro. We can give him an extra fitness programme to strengthen that hamstring over the course of the next two, three months and just let him get on with it.”
New-boy Archibald-Henville might have to wait his chance; he was only due to train for the first time today. At six-foot two-inches tall, the 19-year-old looks the part.
“He comes highly recommended,” said Roeder, with Spurs coach Clive Allen – one of Roeder's ex-QPR team-mates – tipping the wink on that one.
The one other piece of interesting news was the fact that the referee for the game had been changed – Roeder and Clark will not come face-to-face again with Andy D'Urso.
Clark, of course, will be sat in the stands anyway on the back of D'Urso's efforts at Bristol City last season and the FA charges that followed.
“I got told yesterday that the referee's changed – there was no reason given,” said the City chief. Simple common sense would be one, simple reason. Something that the game's lords and masters are not always famous for.