City boss Glenn Roeder this morning offered City fans no immediate hope of reinforcements on the strike front – other than to strike Antoine Sibierski from their thoughts.
The 34-year-old on-loan Frenchman was penned in for active service both tomorrow night and the FA Cup third round replay against Charlton Athletic and again on Saturday with that crucial Championship home clash with Barnsley.
After that, of course, he was due to head home to Wigan Athletic leaving the Canaries with, er, just Arturo Lupoli and a semi-fit Carl Cort by way of out-and-out senior strikers.
But having been stretched off at Bramall Lane with an ankle injury – one that is now likely to sideline him for at least the next four weeks – so even that option has been ripped from Roeder's hands.
With Leroy Lita all but confirming his intention to see out the remainder of his Reading contract at the Madejski, the City chief's attacking options are thinning by the day.
And speaking ahead of tomorrow's replay with the wholly hapless Addicks – now 18 games without a win – Roeder offered little by way of immediate hope; that if there was movement afoot in the kind of Jay Simpson/Ched Evans type of market, it would only come at the very end of this month's transfer window.
By when, of course, City will have already faced the likes of fellow strugglers Southampton and Doncaster Rovers.
The fact that Evans was still featuring in his thoughts offers one, tiny straw to cling to. The fact remains, however, that if Manchester City do not sell their Welsh international starlet to the highest Premiership bidder in the next three weeks, there will be a queue as long as your arm for his loan services.
Whether the 'pull' of returning to Norfolk again on the back of his exploits with the Canaries last season will be sufficient for Evans to return has to be open to doubt. He will attract bigger and better offers; particularly given that his signature will come with a large loan fee attached.
Arsenal youngster Simpson has already found a Premiership outlet for his services – West Bromwich Albion's interest ending any prospect of him getting his hands dirty in the Football League again. He has, after all, done his time there last season with that eye-catching spell on loan at Millwall.
And that's the fear – that all the players of their ilk will have bigger fish to fry this New Year is such a tight and competitive transfer window.
Andy Carroll's goal-scoring exploits for Newcastle United at the weekend will, you suspect, rule out his exit from St James'.
This is the market that Roeder is looking at; for now there is little sign of him staging a raid into Leagues One or Two from where the likes of Sammy Clingan and David Bell emerged.
Nor is there any immediate sign that Cort's fitness is such that he can fill the breach; the 32-year-old, one-time ?7 million striker remained stuck on the bench in Yorkshire this weekend as the Canaries sorry plight worsened again with that narrow defeat against the Blades. The performance might have been up with the best of their away days; the result, however, was still the same as both Lupoli and Wes Hoolahan failed to make the most of the half-chances that fell their way.
“I think Ched's on a lot of people's radar,” said Roeder, with the 20-year-old having made 18 appearances for City this season after his ten-goal heroics in a Canary shirt last season.
But with Mark Hughes now awash with Arab money, Evans' hopes of forcing his way into that starting line-up on a regular basis look all-but doomed. Hughes – and his successor – will have no time to bring such budding talents 'on stream'.
“But I think Mark has made it perfectly clear that until he gets somebody in in the striking role he won't be letting any of his surplus strikers out.
“And I wouldn't be surprised, to be quite honest, if players like Ched – and there are only a few in this sort of position – that clubs will try and sell them first. And then the loan option becomes an option only later in January. Which is a nuisance because there's plenty of games to be played in January.”
It was a scenario that Roeder had clearly found elsewhere on his travels; suggesting that nothing – if anything – would now happen on the strike front until the midnight hour on the 31st. Or the couple of days thereafter as the Football Association extend the window beyond the weekend.
“I don't know officially that he [Evans] is for sale, but it would make sense,” revealed Roeder. “Because other people that we've enquired for have said: 'Well, you'll just have to wait and see. They could become available on loan at the end of January, but at the moment we would be looking for a sale…'”
At which point an Evans or a Simpson of this world goes way out of Norwich's price bracket.
“Manchester City seem to be targetting the very, very best – and proven – players in every position and are probably not in a position where they can wait to bring on their young talent over a period of a few seasons.”
Sibierski is a goner – that, at least, is definite.
“We think that the injury will be a minimum of a month,” confirmed Roeder. “It could be longer – he's got quite severe bruising on his ankle which he twisted badly. And took a kick to too.
“So as far as I'm concerned he'll go back to Wigan and we'll see what happens thereafter. But he couldn't be in our plans for four or five weeks anyway.”
Matty Pattison is expected to be fit again for tomorrow night; Darel Russell is also eligible again – unlike on-loan defender Jonathan Grounds. The expectation is, however, that Roeder will pair Lupoli and Hoolahan together again and keep his fingers firmly crossed that something drops…