Freelance physio John Green today emerged as football's answer to 'The Horse Whisperer' as City boss Glenn Roeder revealed the background to Carl Cort's arrival in Norfolk today.
At the time of his ?7 million switch to Newcastle in 2000, there was little doubt that the 6ft 4in Wimbledon youngster was a genuine, thoroughbred prospect.
Since then, however, the 31-year-old's career has gone into a steady decline as a nagging knee cartilage problem defied both the surgeon's knife and a succession of club managers and physios.
Martin 'Mad Dog' Allen was the last one to try and prise the best out of the one-time England Under-21 striker when he snapped up Cort on a free transfer and brought him to Leicester City in the autumn of 2007.
“Carl has quality and I am delighted he has chosen us over four other clubs, including one from the Premiership,” said Allen at the time, after Cort was released on a free by Wolves. Whether 'Mad Dog' was the best person in the world to coax Cort back into life must be something of a moot point. He's not exactly renowned for the gentle touch.
“I believe I am going to get the best out of him… I am going to work him hard and push him to maximise his ability – then the ball will be in his court,” roared Allen, about to fall foul of the club's owner Milan Mandaric as the Foxes descent into League One began in earnest.
Cort, meanwhile, would readily admit that he was on the verge of quitting the game before Green started to whisper in his ear – and over the course of the last six months get both inside the player's knee and, as importantly, his mind.
“John Green is getting a bit of a name for himself in terms of bringing back player's careers,” said Roeder, with two ready-made examples to hand after first hooking up with the acclaimed physio at West Ham.
“I got him to work with Kieron Dyer and Michael Owen at Newcastle and did a great job on those two players. He's had a knee injury that's caused him lots of problems, but as I said he's been working with John Green now for a long time – it might be as much as six months or more,” said Roeder, with the arrival of new Hammers boss Alan Pardew seeing Green move into private practice.
“He looks after an amazing amount of Premiership players – I obviously can't tell you who they are because that's private – but John recommended Carl to come up here a couple of weeks ago.”
Cort's name didn't actually pop up at first as the Press gathered a Colney ahead of tomorrow night's trip to Watford – albeit well aware that Roeder had this 'ace' up his sleeve. Rosenborg's Steffen Iversen appeared the obvious port of call before Roeder sprang his surprise.
“He's trained with us for the past couple of weeks,” said Roeder, as he introduced today's new signing with just that little bit of a tease.
“[He's a player] who's had a really unlucky time over the past few seasons with injuries. But when he's been fit he's been an excellent player in the Premiership…”
And then the name.
“He's looked good in training,” Roeder continued, as Green's handiwork comes under the microscope. Whether the knee will stand up to the rigours of Championship football remains to be seen; whether the question marks will be as much mental as physical for Cort is another moot point.
The City boss admitted that nothing was certain. 'Mad Dog' has already tried and failed. But that was before Green got hold of his new patient and gently started to ease him back into footballing life.
“It is a calculated gamble,” admitted Roeder, with Cort being a pretty low maintainence free agent. If it works, City have a bargain; if it doesn't, they haven't lost a fortune.
“Every signing is a calculated gamble. But a fully fit Carl Cort would still be playing in the Premiership; he's just been really unlucky with this particular knee injury. But he has looked good in training; the knee has not given him a problem every day after training. He has a fitness programme that he will have to do for every day for the rest of his life.
“But now I've got to know him over the last couple of weeks, he seems a terrific guy. A good personality – and desperate to play football again.”
He had seen life on the other side; he had watched his brother, Leon, hit some of the heights that he was scheduled to do in the Premiership.
“As he said: 'It's only when something is taken away from you that you realise how good it is – and how much you miss it….' It's given him a completely different perspective on life and being a professional footballer when most of us take being fit for granted. He's had a career-threatening experience that has changed his life.
“I just thought the gamble was worth taking – in our present situation, if we can keep a Carl Cort fit and get him back to anywhere near what he was…
“I think he deserves a bit of luck. And we deserve a bit of luck, as well.”
Roeder is also clearly starting to make plans for life without Antoine Sibierski; the on-loan Frenchman is out this week with a foot injury and appears to be out full-stop come January.
Confirmation of Sibierski's likely exit came as the Canary boss revealed that the 34-year-old would by cup-tied for the third round trip to Charlton Athletic at the start of January.
“And that's understandable – it looks like he'll be going back to Wigan in January.”
At which point Cort has the chance to be centre stage.
“In practice out there over the last couple of weeks, he looks a good player. He looks like what he has done – played Premiership football.
“And he's six-foot four, six-foot five and he's that lean type – he's not the great, big heavy guy. He just looks one of those players that, as a centre-half, if you saw his name on the team-sheet you wouldn't fancy playing against him.”
But it remains a gamble; Cort's fate and City's fortune remain very much in the Horse Whisperer's hands.
“John Green said to me that if I can get Carl Cort playing again at an elite level, for me it'll be my greatest achievement…”