City boss Glenn Roeder wasn't the only one counting heads in the dressing room at Colney this morning.
On-loan Italian striker Arturo Lupoli has also clearly been doing his sums as the 21-year-old frontman dropped a barely-disguised gauntlet at the feet of the under-fire manager. Play me or I''m off…
With Leroy Lita now looking set to see out the last five months of his Reading contract away from Norfolk, Omar Koroma out for the next three months with his Christmas Eve ankle operation and Jamie Cureton set for the full, three-month tour of duty at Barnsley, Lupoli clearly feels that his time has now come for a recall.
And whilst he might not have said it in so many words, 'Otherwise, what's the point..' was written all over his face at Colney this morning as he gave a fairly frank interview to the Press ahead of tomorrow's FA Cup third round trip to Charlton Athletic.
Already linked to a mid-season switch first back to his full-time employers Fiorentina and then on again to Serie A rivals Sampdoria, it was clear that Lupoli has other irons in the fire – but, for now, remains committed to a Canary cause he signed up for until June.
But, at some point, he has to get games, was his clear message.
Particularly when, in the manager's own words, he was down to the very barest of bones numbers-wise; with just “13 to 14” fit, senior professionals at his disposal for Norwich's trip to The Valley.
“I want to play in this game,” was Lupoli's unequivocal response to his hopes of starting a match following news of Lita's whereabouts this weekend – that and Koroma's injury blow.
Asked the same question minutes earlier and Roeder's response was far more cagey. “Possibly, though I have preferred Darel Russell…'
A potential statement of intent that might not wholly delight the frustrated Italian.
“I'm full of energy and if it was the case, then I would be ready for it,” said Lupoli, left as little more than a bystander this autumn as the City chief fears for his physical robustness in the midst of an ugly, Championship street fight.
Indeed, speaking after the away defeat at Reading in which Russell again found himself performing that stand-in striker role, Roeder even suggested that Lupoli's future would lie way out left – dealing with two, strapping Championship centre-halves was too much to ask of the one-time boy wonder of Italian football.
If opportunity were to knock again, it would be in the role that Billy Davies assigned him whilst on-loan at Derby County – way out left in the role currently filled by David Bell.
“I've been very patient for two, three months,” said Lupoli, absent altogether from last Sunday's 3-2 home defeat by Nottingham Forest – a result that left the Norfolk club hovvering all too dangerously just above the drop zone.
“And I think that now is the time to play – otherwise if it doesn't change here I will have to find something else,” he said, with the thud of a gauntlet being dropped at the manager's feet.
“But I really hope it will change in the next week or so and then I can start to rebuild my confidence and my season here and, hopefully, I don't have to make any move.”
That there were alternatives appeared in little doubt. He remains a young man anxious to regain the heights that Gunners boss Arsene Wenger among others once expected of him.
“I know there is clubs interested in me – and that's a good thing.
“But as I always said I came here to be one season; to be here till June. And that's my first option.”
Given City's alarming lack of strike alternatives – particularly in the wake of Lita's exit – Lupoli's commitment to the cause needs very careful handling. Otherwise, for as long as Cureton remains at Oakwell and out of Roeder's thinking, the City boss will have to conjure something special out of this month's transfer window to fill in the gaping holes in his forward line.
Antoine Sibierski has scored just once – on his debut. He is also due to return to Wigan at the middle of the month; his initial three month loan period over. Wes Hoolahan has yet to score at all – be it from either that role 'in the hole' or as and when he's played out wide on the left. Nominally now Lupoli's berth.
“If this doesn't happen and I don't play, I can't afford to be sat on the bench and I go somewhere else,” added the Italian, patience starting to wear a little thin.
It all looked so rosy back at Ninian Park that afternoon when his two, late expert finished boded so well for his year-long switch from The Viola.
“There are some rumours,” said Lupoli, quizzed about which irons were in the fire. “But only me and my family know what's going on.
“But I know there is some clubs, for sure. And there have been rumours about other clubs as well. But these are only rumours – I don't think this is anything true.
“I have option. But at the moment I just try to get in this team.”
Would he still be here on February 1st? Or were his hopes of making a big splash on the very door-step of the Premiership about to be dashed?
“I think so – I think so,” he said. “And I hope so in June.
“But something has to happen in the next week or so or otherwise I have to leave.”