City boss Paul Lambert will welcome to fresh faces onto the bus to Stoke this afternoon – just as two more struggle to find their way back into his travel plans.
New-boys Jonny Howson and Ryan Bennett will both join their new Canary team-mates for the trip to the Britannia – Howson back from injury, Bennett back from England Under-21 duty.
Together they represent £5 million-worth of January transfer activity that has yet to be factored into Norwich’s Premiership progress this season.
Aged 23 and 21 respectively, the former Leeds United skipper and the footballing Posh centre-half also represent the future playing-wise for the Norfolk club; both will be expected to figure large in Lambert’s 2012-2013 plans – let alone the last 12 games of this campaign.
The two notable in their continuing absence are the luckless James Vaughan and full-back Marc Tierney.
Both, Lambert revealed at Colney this morning, have suffered set-backs of late. Vaughan has hamstring trouble; Tierney a niggling knee condition.
All of which will leave Lambert with a decision to make at left-back – to keep faith with the ever-green Adam Drury or to switch Kyle Naughton across to the left to accommodate a return of Scottish international Russell Martin at right-back.
As for the new-boys, Howson looks good for a place on the bench, whilst Bennett may have to wait his chance. Having only been in the building 24 hours following the completion of his month-long loan stay at Posh, the one-time Hemsby youngster is still working on names and faces – not to mention the small matter of ousting Zak Whitbread and Elliott Ward out of Lambert’s thoughts.
“Jonny [Howson] is in the squad for tomorrow and I will decide between now and then what I plan to do with him,” Lambert reported, with the ex-Leeds favourite completing 90 minutes of reserve team action this week in the 3-2 win over Wolves.
“He came through it really well and looked OK, but you can never tell anything from reserve games really,” said Lambert. “But I won’t put him on tomorrow just for the sake of putting him on.
“It would have to be a position where we think it would change the game – or help us to go on and win it or whatever, but I haven’t decided really.”
Lambert also has the Spaniard, Daniel Ayala, back in training. He – like Bennett – will have to bide his time as the Canaries look to take that magnificent team performance against Manchester United and translate it into a result against the Potters.
“Daniel [Ayala] trained yesterday which is good news, but tomorrow’s game is too early for him,” added the City chief, with both Andrew Crofts and Steve Morison returning unscathed from their emotional return to Welsh international duty in the wake of the death of boss Gary Speed.
Simeon Jackson, likewise, is back in the fold. With Vaughan’s on-going injury troubles the Canadian international could yet have a major role to play before the end of the season.
“The confidence is really high among the lads at the moment – as it has been for months on end,” said Lambert, quizzed as to what he could take out of that last-gasp defeat against United last Sunday.
“It was a sore one to take, but Manchester United have done that not just to us but many a team down the years. But we played really well and might have deserved something from the game.
“But what is good from my point of view is that the lads are really, really disappointed – and that just goes to show how far we have come as a football club.”
As for Vaughan and Tierney – both of whom missed that United game – both would appear to absent for at least another couple of weeks. At least Vaughan’s set-back appears minor – and unrelated to his well-chronicled knee troubles.
“James [Vaughan] has had a little set-back, but nothing too serious,” Lambert stressed. “He won’t travel this weekend and nor will Marc [Tierney]. He’s had a set-back as well.
“His groin is fine now – it’s his knee. Sometimes it feels OK; sometimes it doesn’t. So I’ll just leave it with the medical people here. But that’s why a squad is there – you need people to step up if people get injured or have a loss of form. That’s what you have a squad for.”