City boss Glenn Roeder this morning launched a passionate defence of his loan signings – challenging anyone who doubted their commitment to the Canary cause.
In his first full year in charge, the Norwich manager has plundered the Premiership loan market with a vengence with the likes of such short-term servants as Martin Taylor and Ched Evans, in particular, proving crucial to the club's successful fight against relegation last season.
This year and Roeder has adopted a similar strategy – pulling every last favour out of his well-thumbed contacts book to deliver another raft of loan signings out of the bag.
But as the Canaries struggle once more to lift themselves away from the bottom six, so one or two mutterings have clearly reached the ear of the City boss – that their commitment is half-hearted, their interest fleeting, their willingness to give yellow-and-green blood for the cause open to doubt.
What do they care? They're off in a couple of weeks…
This morning and Roeder gave a steely defence of both his much-debated loan policy and the personnel concerned as the Canaries looked to shrug off that mid-week defeat at Derby County with an away-day success at Burnley tomorrow.
“We have some very talented loan players here,” he said. “And let's be absolutely clear about this once and for all.
“The loan players at this club, give everything for the shirt. Whoever sits there and says that loan players don't give their best is wearing a pair of glasses that have been painted over with black paint. And they're not seeing anything out of those glasses.”
The whole, touchy subject arose as Roeder looked back on his first full year in charge – 12 months in which the City chief hauled the club kicking and screaming off the very bottom rung of the Championship ladder. Few that were unlucky enough to witness that wretched submission away at Plymouth would have bet on Norwich playing Championship football again this year.
This season and clearly the need is for the club to kick on again. Right now Norwich do it in fits and starts; coughs and spluts. As league leaders Wolves would attest, they can be very, very good. Ask Derby boss Paul Jewell, however, and he'd love to play the Canaries every week after completing an all-too easy six-point haul with that 3-1 win at Pride Park on Tuesday night.
“I was appointed to keep us in the Championship from a hopeless position – and I achieved that with a squad that I wasn't happy with,” said Roeder, as he looked back over his first year at the helm and the way in which he had “to take a sword to what I had inherited”.
“It had to be done,” said Roeder, as the axe was liberally applied both on the pitch and off it.
Central to his planning was that use of the loan market. “We had to go on a recruitment drive knowing what the financial world is in football at the moment,” said Roeder.
Without the cash to fund full-time arrivals to the number and quality he needed, Roeder begged, borrowed and stole to put a squad together – a policy that he will have to continue come the New Year particularly now that the Turners have quit the board taking their scheduled, substantial investment with them.
“We lost a major investor in the Turners and that made the job even tougher,” he added. “So I knew we wouldn't be able to replace 17 players with 17 new, contracted players to us.
“So stage one was going to have to be seven or eight of our own players and seven or eight loan players. And that's what I've done until such time as we can have all our own players. Which is what our supporters want – I understand that.
“Every manager would like to have contracted players, but some of the loan players that we've got here we couldn't afford anyway. And we're very grateful that the Premier League clubs that have loaned them to us have done so.”
In that category would fall Chelsea's Ryan Bertrand, Reading's Leroy Lita and Fulham's Elliot Omosuzi. By extending his net further afield, Roeder has also added Celtic's John Kennedy and Fiorentina's Arturo Lupoli to his pack. Again, neither would fall into his price range if they came with a full-time contract attached.
Kennedy was the stick with which Roeder chose to challenge his doubters with.
“John Kennedy – playing at Bristol City. With his ankle hanging off. If he wasn't committed to the cause, he'd have been off after 20 minutes. Put the white flag up.
“How John stayed on for 90 minutes I do not know. Because when he took his sock off after the game, his ankle ballooned out of all proportion. And there's several other cases of loan players being injured and getting back to fitness quicker than we would have expected because they want to play for Norwich.”
And once here, they don't want to leave. Getting them here remains the $64 million dollar question – thereafter, however, and they belong to Norfolk.
“Sometimes I really have to sell this club to a contracted player or a loan player – you have to say what a brilliant part of the country this is to live in. Players fo look at it location-wise and they do think it's a bit back of beyond.
“But once they come here, I can't get rid of them. They just love it. There isn't any loan player that I'm aware of at the moment that might have to go back in January, who will want to go back in January on their own accord. They'll want to stay the whole season.”
A logic that would appear to be applying to the four-goal Lita; Roeder was due to speak again with Reading today in the clear expectation that the Royals will all-but rubber-stamp a second month's loan deal – the paperwork will then go through on Monday.
Injury-wise and the manager's principal – indeed, only – doubt for Turf Moor tomorrow is the on-loan Frenchman Antoine Sibierski who has “about five things wrong with him…” Battered and bruised would appear to be the gist; cue another possible stand-in striker gig for skipper Darel Russell.