City boss Paul Lambert this morning moved swiftly into reinforcement mode as he snapped up Baggies centre-half Leon Barnett in a half-season long loan deal.
With an ankle ligament injury sidelining Michael Nelson for “a few weeks” and with Zak Whitbread likewise struggling, the Canaries were down to their last two fit centre-halves in the shape of Elliot Ward and Jens Berthel Askou. Hence Lambert’s need to bolster his numbers in that department; hence today’s move for the 6ft 1in Barnett.
“We thought it was the right thing to do to bring someone in to strengthen that area,” Lambert told the club’s official website this morning, revealing that the one-time Luton starlet was on his wanted list last season.
Finally, he has got his man.
“Leon was someone we tried to bring in last year,” said the Canary chief, clearly in no mood to let City’s early Championship momentum slip – the Carling Cup can wait for another year.
“He’s a quality player who has played Premier League football as well as having solid experience at Championship level, so I’m delighted that we’ve been able to bring him in,” added Lambert.
“He’s here until January and will provide competition for places when Michael and Zak are fit again – something that I think that you’ve got to have.”
The Baggies snapped up the former Hatters Player of the Year for £2.5 million in the summer of 2007 with then boss Tony Mowbray insisting that Barnett’s willingness to learn would make him a “top, top player”.
“The good thing about Leon, is that he’s like James Morrison, and comes and knocks on your door and asks if I can show him where he is going wrong, what can I do better and what should I have done in this situation,” Mowbray told the Birmingham Evening Mail.
“He wants to learn and doesn’t sweep it under the carpet and forget about it, which is why he will be a top, top player.”
Events haven’t quite panned out that way yet, however, with Barnett being shipped out on loan to Midlands neighbours Coventry City last season where he made 20 Championship appearances.
Once again this season, he has found himself unable to command a regular starting spot in the Baggies Premiership plans, hence their willingness to let him back out on loan into the second tier of English football.
Chris Coleman is no mean judge of a player; Barnett should be more than capable of holding his own at this level and may yet – at 24 – add that little bit of extra pace to the Canary rearguard.
Gary Doherty’s exit this summer ensured Lambert would always head into the new campaign with a fresh-looking centre-half department.
The frustration remains that Whitbread, in particular, has yet to enjoy a lengthy, injury-free run in the side, while Askou was himself sidelined for much of last season with injury.
David Stephens also exited over the summer as the Welsh Youth international joined John Hughes’ Hibs outfit after finishing last season on loan with Chris Sutton’s Lincoln.
All of which will have concentrated Lambert’s mind when it came to bolstering that back line ahead of next week’s summer transfer deadline.