City boss Chris Hughton today sent young striker Jacob Butterfield north with the specific intent of getting precious game-time under the youngster’s belt.
The 22-year-old former Barnsley boy wonder has found Premier League opportunities hard to come by after arriving in Norfolk this summer with a long-standing injury – courtesy of a robust challenge in the New Year Yorkshire derby with Leeds United.
Having now recovered from those six months on the sidelines, Butterfield has had to settle for Capital One Cup game-time – and watch as Wes Hoolahan re-establishes himself as Grant Holt’s No1 side-kick.
All of which will have figured in Hughton’s thinking as he today allowed Butterfield out on a month’s ‘emergency loan’ to Bolton Wanderers, now managed by Dougie Freedman.
The Canary striker will go straight into the Trotters’ squad for their weekend clash with Blackpool as Bolton look to kick-start their season under Freedman’s charge.
“It was a tough decision, because we brought Jacob here in the summer, and he has been involved in squads but hasn’t had the minutes on the football pitch that he would have liked,” the Canary chief told the club’s official website this afternoon, as Norwich gear up for their own trip to Reading this weekend.
City’s recent up-turn in results and their relative lack of injury concerns – certainly in the forward areas of the pitch where the Holt-Hoolahan combo rules the roost for now – ensured that first-team opportunities in Norfolk would continue to prove hard to come by.
Better therefore to get Butterfield out and about and adding that final match sharpness to his game for the next month rather than twiddling his thumbs on the sidelines.
It may also indicate that when it comes to that Capital One Cup quarter-final clash with Paul Lambert’s Aston Villa, Hughton might now throw his first-choice strike pairing into battle in search of a semi-final spot.
“He’s quite a way from having played regular football, so it’s a really good opportunity for him in a short period of time to get some games under his belt, and then of course come back here even stronger,” added Hughton, with Butterfield being Freedman’s first signing since taking over at The Reebok.
“The only reason he’s going out on loan is to get games, and at this particular moment we are able to do that because we haven’t got too many injuries,” the Canary chief continued.
“He has done well here, trained well here, and we could be selfish and keep him here, but we have to look at it from the club’s point of view that we want him firing on all cylinders.”
City – likewise – travel down the M4 firing on all cylinders, having taken seven points from their last available nine and found themselves 14th in the table.
The Royals, by contrast, have struggled to find their feet back in the top flight and last Sunday’s 1-1 draw with fellow strugglers QPR failed to lift an anxious mood.
Their cause wasn’t helped by an injury to goal-keeping prospect Alex McCarthy who was in-line to figure in Roy Hodgson’s England thinking for next Wednesday’s clash with Sweden – a gig that City’s own John Ruddy is set to enjoy.
The 21-year-old is, however, now rated doubtful for Saturday’s clash after clattering into a post in that 1-1 draw with Rangers and damaging his right shoulder in the process.
The latest injury update actually came from the player’s own Twitter account when he told Royals fans: ‘Shoulder is feeling better today, but results didn’t come back as I wanted. Going to see shoulder specialist tonight to see what outcome is!”
In his likely absence former No1 Adam Federici is favourite to play at the Madejski Stadium. Out of form and, seemingly, somewhat out of favour with the management this season, Reading appear to have found Lady Luck deserting them in their hour of need.
Norwich, by contrast, appear to be very much in the Lady’s favour of late.