Day One of the 2009 January transfer window and City's already pencil-thin squad was in danger of becoming three players lighter as Luke Chadwick prepared to join MK Dons on a permanent basis, Arturo Lupoli continued to be linked to a return to Fiorentina and – most alarmingly of all – Leroy Lita was all but named in Reading's FA Cup squad for the trip to Cardiff this weekend.
All of which would suggest that the 24-year-old striker wasn't about to return to Norfolk any time soon.
Certainly not in time for Norwich's own FA Cup trip to Charlton this Saturday – leaving hard-pressed City boss Glenn Roeder to perm two from Antoine Sibierski, Wes Hoolahan, Darel Russell and the half-fit Carl Cort as the Canaries desperately looked to start the new year on a brighter note than they finished the last.
Either that or else Roeder would feel the need to recall Jamie Cureton from his loan spell at Barnsley having already ruled him out of playing in the Tykes own FA Cup trip to West Ham United.
Royals' director of football Nicky Hammond was the one bearing the glad tidings re Lita's whereabouts this weekend with the Reading Evening Chronicle suggesting that boss Steve Coppell would take the opportunity to rest both Kevin Doyle and Noel Hunt and throw Lita back into the fray – now that the Canaries had him all nicely warmed up and in the goals.
“Leroy is available to play in the FA Cup, though whether he will depends on the manager,” said Hammond, his words likely to send a shudder down the spine of many a City fan after Roeder offered the prospect of a half-season loan deal being done in time for the weekend trip to The Valley.
That prospect now appears to be receding at a fast rate of knots – leaving the Canary chief with an almighty hole to fill at the front of his team.
“Kevin Doyle and Noel Hunt have featured heavily for us this season, but Leroy Lita still wants to play,” added Hammond. “It was a good option to send him out on loan because he wasn't playing. He's done an excellent job for Norwich but he's back and wants to be involved.”
A trip to Ninian Park will also keep Lita firmly in the shop window – albeit cup-tied for any future employer.
Out of contract in the summer and free to walk out of the Madejski for nothing in five months time, Reading will clearly listen to offers. That said, those offers have equally to be of Lita's liking – if not he simply stays put, sees his contract out and picks and chooses himself in the summer.
Persusading him to come and join a good old relegation scrap at the foot of the Championship will take some serious persuading on Roeder's behalf. Providing, of course, that he even had the wherewithal to fund both a transfer fee and his likely wage demands.
Even a half-season long loan would come with a price tag attached. And even then, Reading might refuse to play ball if anyone of a Premiership ilk decided to come a-calling for a Hunt or a Doyle and leave the Royals themselves a striker light.
“I spoke to Glenn Roeder and I'm sure he wants to keep Leroy. He is an excellent striker with a superb goal ratio,” Hammond told the Chronicle. “However, at the moment he's back with us and he will go straight into the squad at the weekend.”
Chadwick's exit on a free comes as little surprise. The 28-year-old has been plagued with injury since he arrived in Norfolk under Peter Grant and having won over the MK Dons faithful with three goals in his first seven appearances for the League One outfit, they were always odds-on to look to make the initial loan switch permanent come the window.
Needless to say, however, injury intervened with a knee ligament injury that saw the one-time Manchester United youngster return to Colney for a further round of rehab.
A sell-on clause will cover this month's free exit should Chadwick be sold on again.
As for Lupoli, rumours persist that he is bound for a return to Italy – with Sampdoria even reported to be lining up a half-season long loan deal for the 21-year-old.
Once again, thosse boarding the bus for The Valley tomorrow will reveal much as to who Roeder will have left to play with come February 1. The Lupoli move hasn't worked – or, at least, hasn't thus far.
For despite offering a glimpse of that natural predatory instinct with those two, late goals away at Cardiff the one-time boy wonder of Italian football failed to command a regular place in Roeder's starting plans – being deemed to lack the required physical robustness in the Championship.
Indeed, commenting after the defeat at Reading the City boss suggested that he was now following Billy Davies' line of thinking at Derby – that Lupoli was better suited to the wide-left role than straight down through the middle.
Only problem there being that – as he demonstrated in the 3-2 home defeat by Charlton on Sunday – Roeder fancies either David Bell, Hoolahan or, indeed, Matty Pattison in that role ahead of him. In fact, Lupoli never even made the bench – again suggesting that his days in Norfolk might be numbered.
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