As the January transfer window slammed shut this evening so the Canaries pulled one surprise out of the bag – by selling stout-hearted defender Michael Nelson to Scunthorpe United ‘for an undisclosed fee’.
While all eyes were on the entrance door; wondering whether or not Canary chief Paul Lambert would add one more fresh face to his squad ahead of tonight’s home clash with Millwall, it was the exit door that swung open instead as Nelson returned to his northern roots and left-back Steven Smith headed back to Scotland with a loan switch to Aberdeen.
On closer inspection, Nelson’s exit should not have come as too much of a surprise. If only for the fact that the 30-year-old former Hartlepool skipper was out of contract this summer.
That, alone, would have given Lambert a decision to make with Leon Barnett, Zak Whitbread and Elliott Ward all committed to the club for at least another season, the Canary chief already had three centre-halves in his locker.
Depending on how events unfurled this spring, Lambert clearly wanted to give himself a little head-room in the summer.
And with Nelson able to walk for free at the end of the season, so money talked – and Iron whisked Nelson out of Norfolk with the aid of a new, two-and-a-half year contract.
Lambert was swift to pay tribute to the man whose goal away at The Valley last season did so much to erase memories of the club’s last visit to Charlton when relegation to the third tier of English football was confirmed.
Some 12 months later and it was Nelson’s lone goal that was propelling the Canaries back into The Championship at the first time of asking – an upward momentum they haven’t lost.
“The goal he scored at Charlton was a brilliant moment for everyone at the club,” City boss Lambert told the club’s official website this evening, as he bid his fond farewells to a defender that more than did a job in last year’s promotion campaign.
The year and his chances have been limited by the Ward-Barnett combination and, more recently, the return to form and fitness of Zak Whitbread. Like the Dane, Jens Berthel Askou, it appears that Lambert wasn’t making plans for either next year.
“He [Nelson] is out of contract in the summer and the move to Scunthorpe not only offers the prospect of regular games but also provides him with the security he is looking for at this stage in his career for him and his young family.”
Lambert clearly has every respect for Nelson; before now he has described the whole-hearted centre-half as a real man’s man; equally, however, if someone wishes to offer him money for the last six months of a 30-year-old’s contract, then in the current financial climate he would be hard pressed to refuse.
As for in-comings, Lambert suggested over the weekend that he would not be bringing in anyone new ‘just for the sake of it…’ and has long made it clear that he’s not a big fan of endless Premiership loans.
Besides, with the Canaries sitting very pretty in second ahead of tonight’s home clash with the Lions the City chief is probably wary of rocking the apple cart unnecessarily.
He has a very good thing going in Norwich right now; why try to fix something that certainly ain’t bust?
As for the Lions clash, Adam Drury is the biggest doubt after he disappeared on the hour mark at Crystal Palace with a slight thigh strain.
“We’ll see how he is,” Lambert told the Press this morning. He has, of course, the newly-arrived Marc Tierney up his sleeve – his arrival helping to ease Smith’s exit to Pittodrie until the end of the season.
“He did fine when he came on,” said Lambert, after Tierney’s 30-minute run-out against the Eagles – his first outing for six weeks.
Lambert was expected to make a late call on Drury. Otherwise he was expecting yet another tough game as the Lions, like Leeds, prove that they too are capable of staying the course in the higher flight.
Once again, Lambert was expecting the home faithful to play their part.
“If we can get the crowd on our side, then hopefully we can go on and win it,” he said.