City chief Glenn Roeder once again confirmed his belief in the forgotten man of late – on-loan Fiorentna striker Arturo Lupoli.
In theory, the one-time Arsenal starlet would have been centre stage tonight as the Canaries headed back to his od maor and the re-match with the Rams.
In practice, however, and the three-goal striker has slipped out of sight; in part in the wake of Leroy Lita's arrival on loan in Norfolk; in part, however, down to the Italian needing to re-adjust himself to the harsh, physical realities of life as a Championship footballer.
“I've still got a lot of belief in Arturo – he's scored three goals for us so far this year,” said the City chief, desperately looking to build on those back-to-back home wins this evening if Norwich's recent momentum is to be maintained.
Whether Lupoli will make it as far as the bench tonight remains to be seen. Given his recent heroics, Lita's name is carved in stone when it comes to this evening's team-sheet.
“I'd like to think that there's a lot more goals in Arturo between now and the end of the season, but there is a lot of competition for places.
“And not just in the starting line up, but also to get onto the bench.”
The lesson, said Roeder, was there for all to see in Wes Hoolahan's return from the cold. The one-time Blackpool schemer had fallen from favour, but delivered where it mattered – on the training ground.
From there he put himself in a position to command a recall and with Lee Croft offering the genuine width on the right, Hoolahan the outside-in invention on the left and Lita the menace and finish through the middle, it has all started to click.
“If a player is out of the team, what I've got to judge players on is how they are training at Colney,” said Roeder. “The amount of effort they're putting in; the quality that they're showing. Because that's what got Wes Hoolahan back in the team.
“It wasn't the fact that we'd ost a few games, it was the fact that his attitude was excellent. And the quality that I'd seen from him on the training ground was the quality that I saw in him when he was a player at Blackpool. And for that very reason, I brought him back in for the game against Wolves.
“And he had an excellent game – and now it's up to him to try and keep that shirt. He knows that he can't dip below a certain standard otherwise there'll be other players to take his place.”
It is a logic that could yet see the Barclay's No1 favourite Croft being rested this evening in favour of the as-yet largely unknown David Bell. The two wingers swapped places in the second-half on Saturday – to slight questioning from the crowd.
But with Croft, according to Roeder, showing signs of tiring and Bell desperate to make an impact after his stalled start to his new Carrow Road career that may well prove to be one change tonight – the other one will, in every likelihood, come in central defence where John Kennedy is odds-on to partner Dejan Stefanovic from the start at the expense of Gary Doherty.
Given all the lurid tales of Far Eastern betting syndicates that followed the recent, corresponding home fixture, this evening's game is likely to have more than the usual quota of betting puns attached – tis simply the nature of the media beast to look for the national 'line' and have some fun.
“We haven't got anything to worry about at Norwich,” said Roeder, as the wheels of a reported Football Association investigation into those alleged 'unusual betting patterns' proceeds with the usual rapidity associated with all concerned at Soho Square.
“And that's why I've forgotten about it so quickly – had you not brought it up, would have completely forgotten about it already because there's no-one here at Norwich City that have got anything to worry about.
“And I'm sure if there was anything untoward the FA would have already asked questions,” added the City chief, with more faith in the speed of the FA process than most.
“It's a game of football – that's all we're worried about. And for us it's all about winning the game.”
Five or six weeks ago and Derby might have been deemed relatively easy meat; now, however, and the once under-fire Paul Jewell has got a little run going at Pride Park. And after the mannerin which the Rams stole all three points at Carrow Road – and all with a one-man disadvantage – will leave them looking forward to this evening's rematch.
“They certainly didn't waste any time in bombing the ball forward to Rob Hulse,” said Roeder, detecting a new, more direct edge to Derby's style of play.
“They're playing to their strengths and there's nothing wrong with that. And at the start of the season they might have been laying what other people might describe as too much football. So they've changed – and it's up to us to deal with their style of football.
“Compete and be strong in terms of them trying to dominate us.”
One question was inevitable. Lita? Reading? A second month sorted? “Basically, I already have an answer,” said the City chief, after conversations with both the player himself and Royals director of football Nicky Hammond last week.
“But that's private. And there's a couple of loan games to go before he officially finishes. All I'd say is that I'm positive that we'll be able to keep him. But until we rubber-stamp that, I'll keep quiet. But the conversation I had with Nicky Hammond was a positive one.”
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