City boss Glenn Roeder has added another centre-half to tomorrow's shopping list after confirming that the Canaries had agreed a fee with Wolves for Jasn Shackell.
The 24-year-old is understood to be in Wolverhampton for talks this weekend. Should he come through a Molineux medical unscathed, he will be rolled out as a Wolves player tomorrow ahead of this summer's transfer window closing at midnight on Monday.
Announcing his impending exit following yesterday's richly-deserved 1-1 draw with Birmingham City, Roeder revealed that should any last minute complication arise Shackell would be welcome back in Norfolk and given every opportunity to fight for his place.
Every indication was, however, that it was all-but a done deal.
“Whether he signs for them or not, I don't know,” said Roeder, with a fee likely to be in the region of ?500,000 for the one-time City skipper.
“If he signs for them I expect we'll take in another central defender before the window closes on Monday; if he doesn't sign for them, he'll come back into the squad and work hard to regain his shirt and try and get it off Stefanovic.”
The promises to be easier said than done after the former Portsmouth skipper walked away with the Man of the Match champagne yesterday. The fact that the vastly-experienced Serb and on-loan Celtic star John Kennedy are fast settling down into a decent centre-half pairing at this level was always likely to limit Shackell's hopes of a regular starting berth.
Roeder can also call upon Gary Doherty and on-loan Spurs Reserve skipper Troy Archibald-Henville. It was the teenager's presence on the bench yesterday that inevitbly set the tongues wagging as to Shackell's whereabouts. Long courted by Mick McCarthy over the summer, Wolves' chief executive Jez Moxey overnight confirmed on the official Wolves website that a deal was close to being agreed with the player.
“The way that Stefanovic is playing – he's been a fantastic signing,” said the City chief. “With John Kennedy, I think there's the making of an excellent central defending partnership there – as well as the two young full-backs.”
For whilst Elliot Omusuzi was missing this weekend with a slight thigh strain, Ryan Bertrand celebrated his England Under-21 call-up with one of his best outings yet in a Norwich shirt.
Certainly before the interval, Bertrand, Wes Hoolahan and Arturo Lupoli were linking up superbly down the City left. As ever, of course, the one missing ingredient was a big, thumping finish from a big, thumping centre-forward.
What wasn't missing was the usual sucker punch – that having been stuck on the back foot all half, it was Birmingham who went in at the break a good to the good courtesy of Sebastian Larsson's stooping header from a James McFadden free-kick.
For the second, successive home game it was left to stand-in striker Darel Russell to ride t Norwich's rescue with a neat, tucked finish less than a minute after the restart.
The other hero was City keeper David Marshall who managed to deny Kevin Phillips at the very death. Clean through on goal as Norwich over-committed themselves in the opposite direction, few wouldhave bet against the veteran striker pocketing all three points for his new employers. In the event, however, Marshall spread himself big and the ball pinged away off his out-stretched leg.
“I really thing that's the one area of the team – the goalkeeper and the back four – that does look in tip-top shape,” said Roeder, with Marshall once again having precious little to do between Larsson's opener and Phillips' last-gasp miss.
The City chief already has a big, strapping strker sat on top of tomorrow's shopping list; whether he dives back into the loan market for further cover at centre-half or flashes a bit more of the Shackell cash at a full-time replacement is for the next 36-hours to tell.
The expectation was that someone would be arriving before the clock struck midnight.
“It could be either,” said Roeder, quizzed as to his intentions at centre-half. “It might be a permanent signing; it might have to be a loan.
“As you know, I don't mind taking loans – last year, together with the players that were already here, it was the loans that kept us up. We haven't had a loan player come here that hasn't been absolutely motivated for the Norwich cause when he's put the shirt on.”
There was, he said, a wn-win at work here – playing for the shirt, for the cause and watch you own career blossom as a result.
“I think Ryan Bertrand has got a call-up into the England Under-21s purely because he's playing for Norwich City – it's easy for Stuart Pearce to put someone into the Under-21s that's playing regular first team football. Unlike playing for Chelsea's reserves.
“So Chelsea are helping us out, but we're also helping Chelsea out. And I think both those two young full-backs have big Premiership careers ahead of them in years to come.”
It is a logic that could yet apply to the big striker question; that if – for example – Rosenborg continue to cling onto Roeder's No1 target Steffen Iversen, so he could offer a Premiership club the opportunity to polish up one of their rougher, strike diamonds.
And it doesn'thave to be another teenager, either. It could be someone of a more experienced ilk; someone that simply needs games to keep their fitness and sharpness up.
The whole Shola Ameobi saga rumbled on – for having failed a medical at Portman Road ealrlier this month due to 'hamstring trouble' he was fit enough to start at the Emirates Stadium yesterday as the Magpies were all-too easily dismantled by the Gunners. With no Mark Viduka and no Obefami Martins – and James Milner bundled out of the door to Villa at the end oflast week – Kevin Keegan had little or no alternative but to turn to Ameobi.
Indeed, he had two Academy strikers at on the bench as Messrs Ashley and Wise decided just how many of their purse strings Keegan would be allowed to pull tomorrow.
Should either Ipswich or Norwich fancy their chances of picking their way through that collection of characters tomorrow, then it promises to be a long night for all concerned if – now armed with their Shackell cash – the Canaries return for one last pop at the 26-year-old.
“Nothing has changed on what we're trying to bring in,” was Roeder's line last night when asked about any potential in-comings.
“But when the window gets as close as it is now, things can change in 20 minutes. As of now, nothing's changed. But who knows? Even before tonight [Saturday] is ver, things could have changed. We're certainly working very hard to make changes happen.”
Stand by your beds, in short.