City fans would be well advised to keep one ear to the radio and one eye on the official websites tomorrow morning as the Canaries prepare to defy the latest icy blast of winter with this weekend’s trip to fifth-placed Coventry City.
In theory, the pitch at The Ricoh should be playable whatever the overnight snow and frost throws at it; in practice, the authorities may well look long and hard at the travel conditions on the road and the state of the approaches to Coventry’s home ground before making a definite decision.
Both managers, you suspect, would like the game to be played; the Canaries to right the wrongs of last weekend’s home defeat by Portsmouth ASAP, Coventry to further cement their place above City in the play-off pack.
Whether the weather will intervene is the big question as the Canaries tonight confirmed the fact that Arsenal had agreed to extend the loan spell of their starlet Henri Lansbury for another 28 days – the 20-year-old will now be in Norfolk until January 16.
According to Lambert – speaking before the extension was officially confirmed this evening – the extended move was good for all concerned; Arsenal like the way that the Canaries both play their football and give the England Under-21 star daily exposure to first team football; Lansbury gets to play games and make that much more of a name for himself; Norwich simply get to reap the benefit of having a class act in their midfield midst.
He could do little else in the next four weeks and his killer pass for that crucial, second derby goal for Grant Holt will still mark out the young man’s spell in Norfolk.
The Canaries will, however, be without newly-signed defender Leon Barnett who serves out a one-match ban following his re-card against Pompey; they will, by contrast, be with skipper Holt who returns after his own one-match ban last weekend.
Michael Nelson – fresh from the Norfolk Senior Cup run-out against Fakenham in mid-week has ‘every chance’ of stepping into Barnett’s shoes, according to Canary boss Paul Lambert as he spoke to BBC Radio Norfolk ahead of tomorrow’s trip to the Midlands.
“He was playing really well at the time he went out; he’s been out for a few months, but he’s ready to go – he’s fine,” confirmed the City chief, at the start of a crucial-looking festive spell.
The club have already switched to the pitch at Carrow Road for training; the under-soil heating coming into its own in spells like this.
Even so, the harder ground and the freezing temperatures together put extra pressure on the players to get their warm-ups right; to be that little bit more wary of the conditions.
Lambert will also be very wary of one of his ex-charges at Colchester United – the towering Clive Platt, who has been reunited with Ady Boothroyd at the Ricoh.
For those that dare to suggest that the one-time Canary youth coach turned Watford boss likes the game to be played ‘direct’, having someone of Platt’s ilk ‘up top’ will come as no surprise.
He hasn’t actually scored in his last eight, Sky Blues outings. All of which means the element of Sod’s Law will come into play – particularly when he comes up against one of his former managers.
“He’s a terrific lad and did really well for me when I was at Colchester,” said Lambert.
“He’s a proper man which is rare these days – and he’s a handful, there’s no doubt about that. A good lad and a good character.”
Lambert was, of course, concerned for the thousands of travelling Canary fans due to make the trek down the A14 tomorrow.
The players will have long ago been tucked up in their Midlands hotel; in theory.
“Hopefully for the supporters the weather isn’t an issue and, hopefully, for ourselves its not,” said the City chief, ever mindful of the extraordinary loyalty and passion City’s travelling Yellow and Green Army bring to such proceedings.
“As I’ve said before, one of the things of being here is that every away trip is a long way so, hopefully, the weather is OK.”
With Holt a certainty to be slammed straight back into the side – in every likelihood at the expense of Simeon Jackson – Nelson for Barnett could be the only other change of note.
Coventry were hoping to be able to field ex-City star Sammy Clingan tomorrow following his recent knee troubles; they also have suspension issues of their own with midfielder Lee Carsley out for the weekend.