City boss Paul Lambert may yet have to dip into Michael Foulger’s £2 million war chest sooner than he expected after watching Leon Barnett gingerly hobble out of this weekend’s 2-1 victory over Reading.
The 25-year-old pulled up sharply deep into the second-half – the reason not too hard to fathom as the City centre-half immediately felt for the back of his leg and headed off the pitch in front of the Jarrold Stand, his game clearly over.
The words ‘hamstring’ and ‘ping’ crossed the minds of many; afterwards and Canary chief Paul Lambert confirmed that instant diagnosis.
“I’ll have to see how he is come Monday or Tuesday, but it’s a hamstring,” said the Canary chief.
Given a choice in the matter, centre-half is probably the one position in his side where the manager would have least liked to find himself with an injury.
Michael Nelson’s exit in the transfer window left him with three players for the two spots – Barnett, Zak Whitbread and Elliott Ward.
It was, therefore, the Law of Sod that was at work when Barnett – fresh from signing that new, three-and-a-half year deal with the Canaries pulled up short and left Lambert facing an anxious wait on his fitness news.
“I might look at it,” said Lambert, quizzed as to whether he would now head back into that ‘emergency’ loan window.
With everyone, of course, now knowing that courtesy of Foulger’s 80,000-share purchase he has the better part of £2 million to spend – part of which will now have to be earmarked for loan fees and agents’ fees if he looks for a Barnett replacement.
“As I’ve said before, just because the money is there it doesn’t mean that teams are going to loan out their better players,” said Lambert.
He appeared to rule out an immediate recall of Jens Berthel Askou, currently out on an initial month’s loan at Millwall.
“He’s got one more game – so that won’t make any difference. If I have to go out and get somebody, I will do.”
The other option – in theory – would have been Owain Tudur Jones, who came in at centre-half for Swindon whilst on loan at the County Ground from his then-employers Swansea City and was credited with doing a decent job.
He, of course, has had his own loan spell at Brentford extended till the end of the season and, like Askou, appears not to be part of Lambert’s thinking.
It is the loss of the popular Nelson that will niggle at the manager. But the offer of a two-and-a-half year deal for a player out of contract in the summer was just too hard to resist when Scunthorpe United came a-calling for the big-hearted centre-half last month.
The brighter piece of injury news concerned the form of Andrew Surman as he made his latest return from that niggling knee injury which has bedevilled his first season in Norfolk.
Before this weekend, he had made just six starts for his new employers.
Once again, however, the former Saints starlet proved that he has talent a-plenty as he replaced Henri Lansbury on the hour-mark – it was his instinctive flick into the path of Andrew Crofts that set Grant Holt’s crucial 94th minute winner in motion.
Before that he had clipped a fine, 20-yarder onto the top of the Royals’ bar – confirming Lambert’s clear belief that there is a big player there; if he can only stay injury-free between now and the end of the season.
“I think for the time he was on, I thought Surman was excellent,” said the City chief. “He’s got a great awareness for the game. I think he’s a very elegant footballer and he will give you the balance on that side.
“And as for some of his passing, he doesn’t have to look as to where he’s going to pass it which is great and, hopefully, Andrew can stay fit for the remainder of the season.”
As for the biggest decision of the game – the dismissal of Reading midfielder Jem Karacen – Lambert insisted there was no decision to make.
The lad had to go – justice finally served for a similar tackle on Korey Smith in the corresponding fixture. It was Lambert’s fury at that non-decision that saw him sent from the touchline and hit in the pocket with a subsequent hefty fine and two-match ban.
“It was a stone-waller – you can’t go in with your foot as high as that,” said Lambert, with David Fox fortunate not to join Barnett on the day’s casualty list.
“And the lad did it to Korey [Smith] in the last game as well. He had to go.”