City chief Glenn Roeder today all but confirmed that his Italian striker Arturo Lupoli would indeed get his start at Bramall Lane tomorrow.
And nor will new loan signing Jonathan Grounds sit idly by either. “He's not come here to get splinters in his bum…” said Roeder, at this morning's pre-match Press conference.
Inevitably, the conversation would also turn to the whereabouts of Leroy Lita; whether or not he had, actually, been spotted in a blue-and-white shirt with Marcus Evans' name emblazoned upon it.
On that subject, Roeder kept his fingers firmly crossed that something might still happen before the January window slams shut again. But you wouldn't put your mortgage on it. Out of contract in the summer, the ball is firmly in the player's court.
He can do pretty much as he pleases; put his feet up back home in the Thames Valley for the next five months and wait for the phone to ring. With no transfer fee attached, the 24-year-old free agent will have the world and his wife beating a path to his door come June.
Roeder even suspected that on the back of his loan efforts in Norfolk, the one-time England Under-21 star didn't even need to spend the rest of the season strutting his stuff in the nearest shop window. Everyone already knew enough about Leroy Lita to make him an offer – whatever he and the Royals opt to do next.
“We haven't given up at all on Leroy,” said Roeder, with Ipswich's name much to the fore among supporters this morning. The City chief offered another potential destination – Wolves.
Which is why Reading will keep him close to the Madejski for the next five months; he's not about to score the kind of goals that will condemn the Royals to the lottery of the play-offs. But nor, claimed Roeder, is he going to be willing to be No3 or No4 on anyone's pecking order. The lad wants to play games – particularly now his eye is back in with those seven strikes on his Canary travels.
“But the state of play there is that Steve [Coppell] has undoubtedly said to him that he's willing to give him a chance in the squad. So for the next couple of weeks I assume he'll be staying at Reading. And might stay there the rest of the season.
“I don't think they're in a hurry to let him go anywhere else. Why should they be? They're in a great position in the Championship to get automatic promotion and he's as good as any striker in the Championship in terms of his goal ratio.
“So if he's the fourth one that he's got, that must be a very nice position for Steve. I envy him a bit…”
As you might given that your strike options now rely on the 34-year-old Antoine Sibierski – still expected to become a Wigan player again after January 18 – the half-fit Carl Cort and the luckless Lupoli whose late strike at The Valley last weekend spared Norwich's FA Cup blushes against bottom-of-the-table Charlton Athletic.
Not that the final decision will rest with Reading. They can say: 'You're staying here till June…' but they can't say to Lita: 'We've sold you to Norwich, off you go…' Not when his future is firmly in his own hands come the summer.
“He's the driver – Reading can only do so much,” said the City chief. “I spoke to Leroy on a number of occasions and he's not interested in going anywhere permanently at the moment.
“And that's one of the last conversations I had with him and he said: 'I've waited a long time for the contract to run out. I'd rather keep my options open till the summer and then look at all the offers then….' And if he does that, he'll get plenty of offers for sure.
“But right now players who are out of contract in the summer are the masters of the situation. They control it.”
But – and there was one, final 'but'. “But I could still see him potentially moving on loan somewhere,” said the City boss. “Because he ain't going to be happy being the third or fourth striker. He loves playing football and doesn't want to spend the next four-and-a-half months sitting on a bench. Or in the stands.”
In the meantime – minus the suspended Darel Russell in south Yorkshire tomorrow – Roeder looks set to turn to Lupoli after the on-loan Fiorentina striker once again proved that his predatory instincts were still intact at The Valley.
“I see him as an impact starter,” said Roeder, quizzed as to how he saw the Italian fitting in tomorrow.
“But it's down to him now. I might as well tell Kevin Blackwell the team… He took his goal well, but he like the rest of the players know that we're looking for central defenders and strikers. So he has got to make an impact quickly.
“I can only ever give them the stage to play on – they have to perform.”
Had he hand any enquiries for his own players? A Leeds for a Hoolahan? A Sheffield United for a Croft? “None at all,” he said, simply.
For now, the only other iron glowing in the fire was for an experienced centre-half who played “in the Premiership”. Which Premiership, Roeder wouldn't say. But he was on a promise. “The player just has to play in a couple more games…”