City boss Paul Lambert has an abundance of cup riches player-wise at his disposal this weekend as the Canaries make a swift return to The Hawthorns for their FA Cup fourth round clash with West Bromwich Albion.
For while new-boy Jonny Howson may still be sidelined with his well-documented knee trouble, Tuesday night’s Reserve team clash with Chelsea found James Vaughan, Marc Tierney and Elliott Ward all pressing their case for a return to first team squad duties.
Tierney’s absence has been of the short-term variety and with Spurs continuing to insist that their on-loan defender Kyle Naughton sits out City’s cup adventures, so the way may well open for Tierney to resume his place at left-back.
Whether both Vaughan and Ward will be so fortunate is, of course, another matter given the length of time that both players have sat on the sidelines this season.
As influential as Ward was in last season’s promotion push, he has yet to kick a ball in Premiership anger this season and has the likes of Zak Whitbread, Daniel Ayala and Leon Barnett ahead of him in the queue.
More fascinating, however, is the prospect of Vaughan making an impact on proceedings in the second half of the season.
His opening goal in the 3-3 draw with Chelsea demonstrated what everyone in the game knows – the kid has always had a natural eye for goal. It is just whether or not Mother Nature deigns to give him a break injury-wise that is the big question.
Lambert was certainly delighted to have him back in the playing fold as he pondered his options ahead of tomorrow’s fourth round trip.
The fact that the FA Cup isn’t the life or death struggle that the Premiership is may yet favour Vaughan; a place on the bench on the back of that goal-scoring hour on Tuesday night could well be within his reach.
“Vaughany [James Vaughan] coming back will be like a new player – it’ll be great,” he said this morning, as new-boy Howson was introduved to the Press.
“Wardy [Elliott Ward] coming back will be great too,” Lambert added. “He played a huge part for us last year so they are two big players for us.”
Whether this weekend is the moment to round off their lengthy spells in rehab with a full-bloodied FA Cup tie is something for the Canary chief to ponder overnight.
“They need to push on now themselves to get back into the team and back in the squad. But if I throw them in, I know that they won’t let me down.”
The fourth round of any cup competition is something of a rare experience for the Norfolk club and the manner in which the draw has already paired some of the so-called ‘seeds’ together, suggests that opportunity could knock for a Premiership dark horse this year.
Whether that particular beast is one of Lambert’s creations is another matter; there is absolutely no doubt as to where the Scotsman’s first priorities lie – and it isn’t on the road to Wembley.
Fresh from that league success over the Baggies – and a similar mind-set applying to the thoughts of Roy Hodgson – it will be an intriguing match-up in the West Midlands.
According to striker Simon Cox, the Baggies feel they have a point to prove against their Norfolk visitors following that recent 2-1 reverse.
“We have looked back at that tape and we felt we deserved at least a point from that game,” Cox told today’s Wolverhampton Express & Star.
“Stats sometimes tell a different story to the video but we have looked at the game and statistically we were better than them.
“We had more possession, more shots and crosses, more entries into the final third. But on the day they probably had four shots and took two whereas we had five or six and only scored one. We probably got hit with a sucker punch.”
What will be equally interesting will be the attendance after West Brom’s third round clash with Cardiff City managed to attract just 12,545 punters.
With City’s Yellow & Green Army expected to number some 3,200-strong, vocal advantage could lie with the visitors from the off and buoyed by the arrival of Messrs Howson, Vaughan and Ward this week, so the Canaries might just fancy their chances of gracing the fifth round draw.
One thing Lambert was, however, keen to avoid was a replay. Norwich – as ever – won’t be going anywhere looking for a draw.