New City chief executive David McNally today insisted that the Canaries' 2009-2010 preparations were coming along just nicely – even if there was one, large hole left to fill.
Last week and Norwich boss Bryan Gunn revealed that filling the No1 and No9 jerseys remained his top priorities. This week's arrival of 28-year-old Aussie keeper Michael Theoklitos filled one of those slots, now all eyes were on finding a big, strapping centre-forward to befit the club's League One surroundings.
Liam Dickinson, Alan Lee and Colchester's Clive Platt have all been mentioned in recent despatches; whether their arrival remains dependant on the Canaries moving the likes of a Sammy Clingan on is something for McNally to know and the rest of us to guess.
But, right now, the former Fulham MD is quietly happy with the way the new season is shaping up. In fairness to all concerned, by Norwich's less than lofty standards having four players in the building ahead of the first pre-season fixture of the summer tonight at Fakenham is no mean feat. And all on full-time deals to boot.
“How's it going? Really well, we think,” said McNally, speaking at this week's arrival of Theoklitos.
“We've got lots of work to do, but I'm delighted to report that everyone's working hard on behalf of the business to put the club in fine shape for next year.
“And I'm spending a lot of time with Bryan and his team to help with the restructuring of the squad – we've got one or two targets that we'd like to join the football club and there may be one or two players that through the process of bringing in new faces, we may have to allow to leave.”
Matty Pattison has found himself linked to a switch with Blackpool and with both Matt Gill and Owain Tudur Jones in the building already, it will be interesting to see whether the likes of Darel Russell and Wes Hoolahan are happy to come along for a League One ride.
But Clingan is the key piece exit-wise; he's the one that could strengthen Gunn's arm in the transfer market again should Coventry City or whoever finally seal a deal.
“There's nothing further to report there,” said McNally, talking in general of possible exits. “But it is clear that we do need to strengthen in one or two areas and that may also free up some space and allow one or two people to leave.”
Filling the hole that Lee Croft left on the right-hand side of midfield would be another area of concern; first and foremost, however, is the need to fill that big, target man slot.
As ever, summer speculation can vary from bang on the nose to rather wide of the mark. Some reported 'targets' are not even that; certain names have never been mentioned; others are still wriggling on the hook; as the usual transfer games are played out.
“We are very active,” he insisted. “We know the market; we are well networked and we are looking in the UK, but we're also looking internationally and are aware of where Bryan needs to strengthen his squad.”
Up top, in short.
“It is fair to say that Bryan is keen to strengthen our striker options,” said the City chief executive, whose predecessor Neil Doncaster has just accepted one of the game's tougher gigs – chief executive of an embattled Scottish Premier League.
“That is clear,” added McNally. “And we are spending time looking at a number of considerations. And, at the end of the day, if you are going to be competitive at the top end of the table you need to score plenty of goals.
“In 46 league games you need to be scoring almost two goals a game – and that takes some doing consistently. And we absolutely need to be going into the season stronger in that department than we finished last year. Bryan's well aware of that and we are actively seeking suitable players in that department.”
The fact that thus far all four, new faces have a full-time deal to their name is also very much part of the McNally-Gunn way of thinking. He wasn't, however, ruling out one toe in that loan water before the window finally slams shut at the end of August.
“In a post-season review on last year, we would probably reflect and say that we had perhaps too many people who were here on loan,” said McNally, as the days of eight or nine players on the club's book disappear for good.
“I understand that, from time to time, loan signings are vital, but in terms of our timetable we'd prefer to have the permanent deals done earlier in the window. And if we have some 'filling up' to do towards the end of the window then there may be one or two loan signings that we will pursue.
“But really we want people that can play at this level and be competitive at the top end of the league – and, quite frankly, their committed to the club with a contract so they are really and truly playing for the jersey here. In a very practical sense.”
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