Any lingering hope that Leroy Lita might be the one to spare the Canaries from an almighty battle against the drop look to be all-but over after the 24-year-old pledged to stay at the Madejski until the end of the season.
The 24-year-old hitman returned to the Royals last week after banging in seven goals in his 16-game loan spell in Norfolk.
And whilst City could be found slumping ever nearer the drop zone with yesterday's 1-0 defeat at Sheffield United – complete with the usual array of clear-cut misses and what-might-have-beens – so Lita was marking his return to his full-time employers with the fourth and final goal in their 4-0 rout of Watford on Friday night.
After which he told the Reading Chronicle of his plans for the rest of the season. Staying firmly put, in short after a 'Welcome back!' chat with boss Steve Coppell.
“When I came back (from Norwich) the manager and I spoke,” Lita told the Chronicle, as Reading powered on towards an immediate return to the Premiership this weekend – helped by Wolves' shock, 3-1 home defeat by Preston North End yesterday.
“He told me he would love me to stay here and be a part of things,” Lita added. “I made it clear I have no plans to go anywhere.”
Football being football, those plans can change overnight – if the right offer came in for player and club alike.
But with Lita out of contract in the summer and able to take his pick of potential suitors then, so it is clear that he is no particular hurry to go anywhere. Particularly if Coppell keeps him involved in the first team squad.
The canny Royals chief will also want to see which way this month's transfer window pans out – he could yet lose Stephen Hunt to a clutch of Premiership suitors at which point he might be more than happy to have Lita still in the building.
The latter admitted that he had been “unsettled” in recent seasons as he found himself out of the first team and in the newspapers for all the wrong reasons. Now, however, he insists he is ready to roll his sleeves up and join Reading's promotion fight – leaving Roeder back at the drawing board as far as strike reinforcements are concerned.
Yesterday's events at Bramall Lane hardly helped as the on-loan Antoine Sibierski disappeared on a stretcher.
And while the on-loan Frenchman might have been due to return to Wigan after the home clash with Barnsley next weekend, he still – in theory – had two more games in him.
Now the hard-pressed City chief will have to find someone else to spearhead Norwich's lingering FA Cup ambitions in the third round replay against Charlton on Tuesday night before sifting through an all-but empty larder for that crucial home game against the Tykes on Saturday.
He will, at least, have Darel Russell back from suspension, but his stand-in striker days have rarely yielded much fruit of late leaving all eyes on the state of Carl Cort's fitness as the 32-year-old missed out on the chance to top his match fitness levels with a late, 20-minute run-out against the Blades yesterday.
A goal adrift to Darius Henderson's 17th minute opener, Sibierski's exit appeared tailor-made for the six-foot three-inch target man – only for Roeder to opt for the greater width that David Bell offered. It was a decision that once again had Roeder's critics scratching their heads for a reason.
The prospect of a Cort-Lita double act firing Norwich out of trouble now looks as distant a dream as ever. Cort the unused sub; Lita happy to see the rest of the season out in the Thames Valley.
“I've got to get my head down now and look forward to helping the team over the rest of the season, keep my focus and not worry about anything else,” Lita told the Chronicle, bridges being rebuilt with manager and club alike after his three-month East Anglian exile.
“It wasn't that I felt I wasn't wanted, it's myself, I like playing. And I made it clear that if I wasn't going to be involved I would go out on loan.
“But I love this club. They have been good to me, I want to help and I want to put in my shift and help the team,” he explained, with Wolves, West Bromwich Albion, Everton and Ipswich all reported to be monitoring the Lita situation.
“I wanted to play football – that's all it was. But as I said I'm here, we're all here, and we've all got to play a part during the rest of the season.”
“It's time for me to help the other lads. When I'm not playing I've still got to be the same person around the place and help the team,” he added, now left to dislodge either the 17-goal Kevin Doyle or the ten-goal Noel Hunt from Coppell's thinking.
Given the scarcity of Roeder's own strike resources, it is little wonder that the Canary boss was green with envy at the riches at Coppell's attacking options.
And after watching both Wes Hoolahan and Arturo Lupoli do not better than hit the woodwork with their respective chances before and after the break yesterday, there was further proof of the guld between the haves and the have nots; that for as long as Norwich haven't got a goal-scorer of a Lita's ilk in their midst, they will struggle to score goals on a consistent enough basis.
Lupoli is the last hope on that front, but it remains a moot point as to whether Roeder sees him as an out-and-out central striker anyway having muttered about his best role being wide left after that late defeat to the Royals last month.
But with a defence that continues to give away soft goals game after game, together with that lack of a trusted marksman the two are a recipe for potential disaster. Particularly now that the likes of both Doncaster Rovers and Nottingham Forest have finally found their Championship legs.
The generous welcome that Lita received at the Madejski on Friday night merely convinced the City loan star that home was the best place to be for the final five months of his contract.
“It was a nice welcome back from the fans,” he said. “Footballers really appreciate things like that, it is what it's all about – playing in front of big crowds and doing well for them.
“The fans have always been quality with me and I thank them for that. It's nice to know I haven't been forgotten.”
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