There was plenty of good news from today’s Colney media gathering, with City boss Paul Lambert revealing that Zak Whitbread is close to a return from injury.
The former Liverpool and Millwall man has not kicked a ball in anger this season after suffering with a calf complaint, but Lambert is close to having one of his big players back, as the Canaries prepare to welcome Barnsley to Carrow Road tomorrow.
There was a further injury boost also, with summer signing Steve Smith back in training after damaging his ankle ligaments on the pre-season trip to Germany. The Canary chief is close to having a fully fit squad.
“Zak’s doing fine,” Lambert told reporters this morning. “He is running and pain free, which is good, and he won’t be far off. He’s not ready just yet but he’s doing fine.
“Steve is training and it’s his first week back. He seems to be doing fine. He hasn’t done anything since Germany but it’s only his first week and he’s done OK. But he’s got to get a couple of games under his belt as he’s been out for a long time.”
Another injury doubt is doing just fine, with midfield maestro Andrew Crofts recovering from an ankle knock in time for tomorrow’s clash with Mark Robins’ Tykes.
The summer addition from Brighton had to pull out of Wales’ trip to Montenegro but luckily for Lambert and Co, he’ll run the City engine room this weekend.
“Andrew is fine. He got a knock on his ankle in the last home game against Swansea but he’s OK now. I left it with him and I wouldn’t curtail anyone’s international career as it’s a great honour. His ankle flared up after the Forest game but he’s fine now.
“He’s been in terrific form lately and Crofty has been a big plus for us. He’s on top of his game, that’s for sure and he does every part of the game very well. Crofty has great enthusiasm for the game and he can always play a bit as well.”
Elsewhere, Chrissy Martin is expected to keep his place up top, despite the upcoming court case hanging over him. And it could be an unchanged line-up, with the City boss very happy with recent loan signing Leon Barnett in the centre of defence.
Lambert did hint, however, that there was an injury niggle somewhere in the camp. And if you’re wondering who, he wasn’t letting up. Honest.
“Leon was good; very good. I thought him and [Elliott] Ward were excellent at Forest. He’s a defender, he just defends. I wouldn’t ask him to be Franz Beckenbauer or anything like that but I didn’t have any problems with putting him straight in.”
Looking at the bigger picture, Lambert is clearly extremely happy with City’s start to life back in the Championship. The momentum from last season’s League One title romp has been carried through and the Canaries could move into the top six with a win tomorrow.
“The good thing for us is that we’re not a soft touch. If a team is going to beat us they will have to go some. We’ve got the crowd with us and it’s a great feeling to have.
“I’ve got every belief in the lads and they’ll give me everything they’ve got. We’ve got ability, of that there is no doubt, and we can win games.
“The crowd drive us on and as I’ve said before, they’re a big factor – it’s exactly the same as last year. We’ve got loads that can score goals and the lads are doing really well at the moment.
“There are only four games gone but we’ve kept the same feeling from last year which was important for us. The crowd are coming to games thinking ‘we’re in with a right chance here’ and that’s what you want.
“I have the feeling that we’re more than ready to have a go at teams; whether we’ll beat them or not is another matter. But we’re prepared for it.”
Tomorrow’s opponents have also enjoyed a decent start though. And in former Canary 1992/93 hero Mark Robins, they have a bright young manager at the helm.
“He did well at Rotherham and I know that he played here and did well here,” continued Lambert. “It’ll be a tough game but we’re at home and we’ve got to make the running.”