City boss Bryan Gunn might have a broken foot to thank for ending Arturo Lupoli's ill-starred spell in Norfolk after the on-loan Italian was this afternoon linked to a dramatic, eleventh-hour switch to Sheffield United.
Boss Kevin Blackwell was reported to be targetting Charlton frontman Andy Gray – once, of course, of Bradford City – but the Blades hopes of luring the player back to Yorkshire ended when the Addicks star sustained a broken foot and was ruled out for the rest of the season.
That, in turn, forced Blackwell and his staff to turn their attentions elsewhere – their need for strike reinforcements being underlined by the exit of James Beattie to Stoke earlier in the window.
At which point Lupoli, presumably, caught their eye.
That they were in the market for reinforcements was not in doubt – as Blackwell's No2, Sam Ellis, revealed after Saturday's 0-0 draw with Preston North End at Deepdale.
“The gaffer has got some irons in the fire but we won't be speaking about anything until it is done,” said Ellis, with SkySports starting that particular ball rolling this afternoon.
“We're stretched at the moment and those lads put their bodies on their line out there,” added Ellis. “They need help and they deserve help.”
Speaking this morning, it was very clear that all was not well on the Lupoli front after the on-loan Fiorentina star made his frustrations all-too plain at the KeepMoat Stadium on Friday night.
And while Wes Hoolahan was, likewise, less than gracious on his second-half exit and pointedly refused to shake hands with the manager on his return to the bench, the Dubliner redeemed himself by apologising to all concerned.
He, said Gunn, was “a little gem of a player” – the two having clearly kissed and made up. There was no such accolade to follow in Lupoli's wake.
And with the new management team anxious to get a united dressing room behind them for a crucial three months in the club's history, so you did begin to wonder whether or not Gunn would be of a mind to see which of the apples left in his barrel from Glenn Roeder's reign needed sorting.
“There were body language and other issues that, as a manager, you have to deal with,” said Gunn this morning, as the question of Lupoli's commitment to the cause was raised.
“And we will deal with that within the dressing room. We will sort out what we have to sort out.”
But did he expect him to stay?
“Again we've got till five o'clock today, so I'll tell you at one minute past five what the situation is – and if I need to tell you any more, I'll tell you then.”
The deadline isn't, of course, excatly five o'clock now as the Premier League and friends were granted an icy weather dispensation by both the FA and FIFA.
Clubs still, however, have to prove by email that there was a deal done between them before five o'clock – even if they couldn't physically get together with the layer due to the adverse weather and road conditions.
Lupoli – at Colney this morning – might struggle to make Bramall Lane by five. It would, of course, also require City and Fiorentina to agree to rip up their original one-year loan deal on the basis that it was in the interests of all concerned for the one-time wonder kid of Italian football to start his season again elsewhere.
The contrast between Lupoli and Hoolahan on Friday night gave the clearest indication as to which way Gunn's mind was working. And, potentially, it involved one of the pair going out of the door.
“He was disappointed,” said Gunn, as he reviewed Hoolahan's reactions in an altogether different light.
“I know Wesley – and I call him Wesley to wind him up – and he's passionate. And there's nothing wrong with that.
“And he apologised twice. Once when he came off the pitch at the end of the game and he apologised in the dressing room in front of his team-mates as well.
“So I've not got a problem with Wes. He's a little gem of a player and he'll have a big part to play in us gaining points ongoing. Me and Wes are fine.”
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