City boss Bryan Gunn today gave anxious Canary fans a welcome pre-derby pick-me-up with the news that Republic of Ireland Under-21 star Michael Spillane has, indeed, signed a new, two-year deal.
The Canary chief revealed last Friday that the 20-year-old was very much part of his 2009-2010 thinking having watched Spillane and the other half of the famed 'Luton Two' – Beccles-born striker Chris Martin – pick up Wembley winners medals with the Hatters after their Johnstone's Paints Trophy final success against Scunthorpe United recently.
Gunn confirmed then that a new deal was on the table for Spillane to sign. Today and the last few t's were crossed and the i's dotted to ensure that the Republic of Ireland Under-21 star will add his versatility to the manager's hand next season.
Provided, of course, that Gunn himself is there to reap the benefit.
He, too, is out of contract this summer. Should, however, he mastermind one of Norwich's greatest-ever escapes over the course of the last three games of the season – including, ideally, a win away at City's nearest and dearest neighbours Ipswich Town on Sunday, then the Freedom of the Fine City will be his – let alone the chance to sign a longer-term managerial deal.
In the meantime, however, Gunn was just delighted to have snapped up Spillane's signature after watching one of Ricky Martin's long-time prospects develop into a genuine contender at Kenilworth Road.
“I'm delighted Mickey has signed a new, two-year contract,” Gunn told the club's official site.
“He's gone away and had a taste of League Two; I've watched a couple of games myself where both he and Chris Martin performed very well.
“Hopefully, they'll be able to take those experiences and take them back to Carrow Road and the training ground and we'll see a big development and an improvement.”
The one, big string to Spillane's bow is the fact that he can play in at least three positions – right-back where he won his Wembley medal, at centre-half where he has shone for the Republic of Ireland youths and at centre-midfield.
Such an ability is helped by the right kind of six-foot frame and a definite edge to his game. The kid has always been able to look after himself. Ditto, Martin.
None of which has been lost on Gunn. He, he admitted, would have whipped the pair back out of the Hatters hands in an instant had he got the Norwich job just a week earlier.
Instead, Glenn Roeder's decision to send 'Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum' to the School of Hard Knocks at the very foot of League Two ensured that both can return with the winning feeling that that trip to Wembley delivered.
“I think it's done me the world of good,” said Spillane himself, quizzed as to how much he had benefitted from his year out in deepest Bedfordshire.
“I've been playing every week and winning the cup at Wembley was a great experience for me and I've loved my time there,” he added, notwithstanding the fact that Luton duly disappeared into the Conference last week having failed to over-turn that huge, summer points penalty for various financial misdemeanours.
“It was always going to be ask from the word go, but I went there to play games,” Spillane told the official site. “I think I'd only made 20 appearances for Norwich and this season I've played 44 times for Luton – and it's good to play that many games.”
More, you suspect, will follow next season as Gunn looks increasingly towards the Academy to staff his rebuilt squad. Masters Adeyemi and Smith will come firmly into that category.
Meanwhile down the road and the under-fire Jim Magilton was sitting there with his fingers firmly crossed that Gareth McAuley's hamstrings would be up to playing ball this weekend.
The 29-year-old Northern Ireland international has not played a game since their Group Three win over Poland at the end of March. And minus his 6ft 3in presence so Sheffield United all-too easily muscled their way to a 2-0 wn, before that miserable home defeat by mighty Doncaster heaped yet more pressure on the Town chief before Monday's 1-1 draw away at Bristol City restored a degree of pride.
Speaking afterwards and Magilton was hopeful that his influential skipper would return – particularly now that David Wright was also a likely absentee after his first-half exit at Ashton Gate.
“With hamstrings you don't want to take too many chances, but I'm hoping he'll join in with full training before a big game next week,” said the Town chief, boosted by the news that Jon Stead is back training with the squad ahead of this weekend's derby meeting.
McAuley's fitness is the key concern, however.
Particularly given the fact that one Alan Lee is returning to his old stomping ground fresh from winning the sponsors' Man of the Match gong against Watford.
He and Magilton didn't, it appears, part on altogether the best of terms; hence the 30-year-old may well be heading back into IP1 with some unfinished business in mind.
With Alex Bruce's services potentially required to cover for Wright's absence, Magilton will have little option but to trust the centre of his defence to Ivan Campo and Pim Balkestein.
Campo may be many things, but he ain't tall. And if Lee is in the kind of combative mood that the City faithful saw against Watford, Magilton could yet sorely miss the reassurance of McAuley's 6ft 3in frame. Jon Walters is also understood to be a doubt.
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