The Canaries tonight received a vote of confidence from a most unlikely quarter as David Bell backed his former employers to bounce straight back into the Championship at the first time of asking.
The Coventry City winger's brief part in Norwich City's downfall last season was one of many, curious transfer episodes that came to define Glenn Roeder's ill-fated managerial reign.
Signed from Luton Town amid much fuss and performance last summer – not to mention with the small matter of a lingering ankle injury – Bell briefly flickered into life in the late autumn before being sold off to Coventry City once the January transfer window opened.
Needless to say, he would be fit enough to play his part in Coventry's 2-1 win at Carrow Road in February; the 25-year-old heading back to the Ricoh that night with one, big assist to his name.
Afterwards he insisted that he bore the club no ill-will; a stance that he repeated again in the Coventry Telegraph today. In fact, he appeared positively gutted that the Canaries had dropped into the third tier of English football.
“I feel for Norwich going down,” Bell told the paper.
Funnily enough, he was injured for Coventry's own last game of the season – the 'Welcome, Keano…' party at Portman Road. Time enough, it appears, for him to catch up on events at The Valley. Or rather, non-events at The Valley.
“Because I missed the last match of the season against Ipswich with my injury I was sat at home watching the results as they were coming in and I saw that they were 3-0 down at Charlton after half an hour,” he said.
“It is a lovely club, a big club and they shouldn't be playing football in League One, but no one is too big to go down and I just hope they can bounce back next year.”
That you can bounce back at the first attempt is evident from Leicester City's efforts this season. That you can also go down and stay down for more than one season is proved by Leeds United – albeit if there cause was hardly helped by the points penalty that comes with administration. It is a burden that Southampton will have to live with next season as they start ten points adrift of the pack.
“Leicester have done it, although it is not that easy as Leeds have shown,” said Bell. “I have got a lot of friends there, so I was feeling the disappointment for them.”
A lucky escape on his part? “Obviously it was good timing from me to move to Coventry when I did, but I never thought they would go down when I made the move, but as I said before, no one is too big to go down.
“Charlton and Southampton have followed the likes of Leeds and Leicester and it is all about bouncing back for them. But the club has definitely got enough about it to do that.”
Tonight and speculation continued to mount over which of Bell's former team-mates would actually be still at the club and – in theory – leading the charge back towards the Championship.
Take the team that started that day against Coventry – Marshall, Otsemobor, Shackell, Doherty, Grounds, Croft, Clingan, Fotheringham, Hoolahan, Cureton and Cort – and you could easily forsee a situation where just one of that number started the first game of next season. Skipper Gary Doherty.
David Marshall has already made his move to Cardiff City; Mark Fotheringham has been released; Jason Shackell and Jonathan Grounds have returned to their full-time employers; Lee Croft is out of contract and has decided that his future is elsewhere; Sammy Clingan and Wes Hoolahan continue to catch the eye of Cardiff City and Crystal Palace respectively.
Carl Cort ended the season on the treatment table; his hopes of a longer Carrow Road deal looking ever slimmer. Jon Otsemobor is, at least, still under contract; ditto Jamie Cureton.
Whether either would start on August 8th is another matter – Otsemobor could find himself with both Korey Smith and Michael Spillane for company at right-back; Cureton may well have to play second fiddle to a younger generation led by Cody McDonald. All of which would leave Doherty as the lone survivor.
That Hoolahan could be the next out of the door was all-but confirmed today by Eagles chief Neil Warnock as he conceded that he was facing a losing battle with Derby County over the services of City's Player of the Season.
“Croft is one we are interested in, but it looks like he is going to Derby,” said Warnock, the sting coming in his second line…
“I still need to speak to Bryan about other matters.”
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