City boss Chris Hughton will keep everyone guessing as to whether new-boys Sabastien Bassong and Javier Garrido will make their debuts against Queen’s Park Rangers on Saturday.
Coming fresh into a dressing room still smarting from that 5-0 humbling at Fulham on the opening day of the new season, Hughton may be sorely tempted to throw both the ex-Spurs centre-half and the on-loan Lazio full-back straight in at the deep end.
Or else he gives, the Fulham XI the chance to make full amends in front of an expectant home faithful.
Either way it is for him to know and Mark Hughes to guess. He was, however, more than happy to elaborate on what Bassong might bring to the party after the 26-year-old Cameroon international agreed to that three-year deal under his former mentor at Newcastle United.
“He’s a good player,” said Hughton simply, speaking at today’s pre-match Press conference.
Opportunity clearly knocks again for him after finding his £8 million switch to White Hart Lane didn’t quite live up to his expectations opportunity-wise. Nor was the summer retirement of Ledley King about to open more doors under the new management team.
“He’s gone through a couple of years where he wouldn’t have played the amount of games that he would have wanted – and he’s a good age as well. A good age to bring him into this football club. There’s certainly plenty more football in him.”
He also adds a natural balance on the left; plus a power and an athleticism that came to the fore in his big, debut season in English football at St James’ Park.
“He’s different in a couple of ways – yes, he’s quite a powerful lad, Sabastien. He has got that type of pace to him. But he’s also a left-footer and if I look at the centre-halves that we have got at the moment – and Elliott [Ward] has got a very good left foot – Seb would be the only one that would be a natural left-footer in the centre-halves that we have.”
Ward himself is, however, out – a rare casualty on a generally injury-lite summer.
“He’s just tweaked his ankle,” the manager admitted with the Canary centre-half facing a bigger challenge in the guise of Mr Bassong than a slight ankle knock. It is, stressed Hughton, not a long-term alarm, injury-wise.
“But we knew that it wouldn’t be one that would keep him out for a long time; it was just a case of how it reacted as to how long he would be before he was back. But, unfortunately for us, not quick enough.”
David Fox still needs more game-time before being thrown into the fray; a late check will be made on winger Elliott Bennett.
“He [Fox] has missed a fairly big chunk of the pre-season, but he got that period in the [development] game that he will benefit from and then it will be my decision next week when we have two games – a development game on the Monday and, of course, the cup game against Scunthorpe here on the Tuesday.
“And I just need to make a decision on which one I involve him in.”
Before then, of course, City will be desperately hoping to wash events of Fulham right out of the system with a compelling home win against a Rangers side that itself lost 5-0 on the opening day.
“Was there one aspect that stood out for me? Yes – we didn’t play well enough,” said Hughton, insisting that events had been ‘closed out’ since a team meeting on Monday.
“We didn’t play well enough and we didn’t defend well enough. But its tough when you get beat as emphatically as we did.
“Did I learn more about the players than I would have done on the back of a 1-1? Probably, the answer is I don’t know. But I understand the question – and you are right. Sometimes you can learn more about a team in a heavy defeat than you can in a 0-0 draw when it’s a very comfortable game.”
Now to put such lessons learned into practice…