City boss Paul Lambert appeared in little or no rush to add further firepower to his Premiership-bound Canary squad after this week’s arrival of Anthony Pilkington took his transfer tally up to No6.
The 23-year-old, former Huddersfield winger joins James Vaughan, Steve Morison, Elliott Bennett, Bradley Johnson and the on-loan Ritchie de Laet as the new boys in the Class of 2011-12.
Never one to give too much away, what was particularly intriguing was the way that Lambert appeared to view de Laet as one of four centre-halves to select from with a fit-again Leon Barnett, Zak Whitbread and Elliott Ward ready to fight it out for The Gaffer’s nod.
Indeed, four appears to be something of a magic number for the Scot.
The arrival of Messrs Vaughan and Morison to complement last spring’s magic front pairing of Simeon Jackson and skipper Grant Holt makes it four obvious candidates in the strike department, while you could comfortably argue that he now had four, natural wide players to select from in Bennett, Pilkington, Anthony McNamee and Andrew Surman.
Four for the centre of midfield would, likewise, see new-boy Johnson slugging it out with Andrew Crofts, David Fox and Wes Hoolahan.
It is only at full-back where Lambert would appear one short. Marc Tierney and Adam Drury on the left with new Scottish international Russell Martin on the right. The fact that de Laet can cover on either side – be it right-back or left-back – might be one option. As might youngster George Francomb – if his loan spell at Barnet last season did him the power of good.
Those who might argue that four isn’t such a magic number would be the likes of Chrissy Martin and Aaron Wilbraham up front, Simon Lappin up and down that left flank and the one-time youth team pairing of Korey Smith and Tom Adeyemi in centre midfield.
Throw in the current, three-strong goalkeeping department of John Ruddy, Declan Rudd and Jed Steer and Lambert’s 25-strong ‘ceiling’ squad-wise can swiftly be reached.
Speaking as he formally welcomed Pilkington, de Laet and Johnson to Carrow Road yesterday, Lambert suggested he might make one more dip into the loan market. Might.
“It worked very well for us last year with Henri [Lansbury] and Dani [Pacheco], and the previous year with Fraser [Forster],” the City chief mused.
“The loan system has definitely worked for us – it is not something I would dismiss,” he added. “We have used it in the past and we have used it with Ritchie.”
The fact that Barnett was storming back to full fitness was, he said, a big bonus. That brings his central defensive ‘department’ back up to the required four.
“He [Barnett] is totally fine,” said Lambert. “He is doing great at the moment. It was a big loss losing him when we did, but we had Zak [Whitbread] and Wardy who done great for us. But he is totally fine now and along with him and Ritchie [de Laet] we have four top centre-halves.”
At least one of whom will now add fresh pace to that back unit – that certainly was one of de Laet’s main strengths as the City chief used his very best Glasgow connections to persuade Sir Alex Ferguson to part with his Belgian prospect.
“It was very kind of them to let us have him,” said Lambert. “He has played for Manchester United; we have seen him play for Portsmouth; he is a young player, who has a lot to learn. But if you have played for Manchester United’s first team you must be doing something right.
“He is very, very quick and I’m not sure many people could out run him.”
Pace and athleticism were also on the list of Pilkington’s attributes; hunger and ‘a streak’ those on Johnson’s cv.
The bigger concern re Pilkington was his fitness after his season ended early with a broken leg and a dislocated ankle.
“It is healing really well – and there is no time limit for him to come back,” Lambert re-assured supporters. “I just think for this football club he will be a huge asset.”
As for Johnson, his role appeared to be that of a holding midfielder; providing a platform from which other might work.
He wasn’t, it appeared, destined for duties out wide.
“I know he has played wide for Leeds,” said Lambert. “But I just like the way he plays the game.
“He has little bit of a streak in him which all footballers need, and if he can do well here, this will be a great place for him.”