Keeper conundrum no closer to solution

PUBLISHED: 15:42 28 April 2007 | UPDATED: 10:15 14 September 2010

Norwich City's goalkeeping question was no nearer to being resolved as they went into their penultimate match of the season against Southampton today.

Tony Warner was set to make his 12th consecutive appearance since signing on loan from Fulham at the start of March, but manager Peter Grant has been careful not to put his cards on the table when asked what his exact plans are for next season after using five different 'keepers in just over six months in charge.

Norwich City's goalkeeping question was no nearer to being resolved as they went into their penultimate match of the season against Southampton today.

Tony Warner was set to make his 12th consecutive appearance since signing on loan from Fulham at the start of March, but manager Peter Grant has been careful not to put his cards on the table when asked what his exact plans are for next season after using five different 'keepers in just over six months in charge.

The 32-year-old Warner has done an excellent job in contributing to five victories that have steered the Canaries to Championship safety, and admitted after last Sunday's East Anglian derby against Ipswich that he would be interested in making the move permanent. Grant has, at least publicly, given no clue as to whether that is a possibility - other than hinting that Warner's Premiership wages may be a stumbling block.

The subject came up again at Thursday's Press conference at Colney, but beyond admitting that he had to get a new 'keeper in during the summer, the manager was giving nothing away.

“It's definitely a situation where I'm going to try to get a goalkeeper, there's no doubt about that,” he said.

“I feel as if we need another one. Joe Lewis is young, he's gone away for experience and it's going to be a fantastic experience. I will definitely be looking for all positions but I'm definitely looking for a goalkeeper, everybody knows that.”

From Grant's very first week in charge, the position came under the spotlight when Paul Gallacher was dropped after the 1-0 win at Birmingham in favour of Jamie Ashdown, signed on loan from Portsmouth.

Ashdown's red card in his second game, the 5-0 defeat at Stoke, ushered Gallacher back into the picture, only for injury against Hull to give England Under-21 international Lee Camp the chance to fit three games in before the end of his three-month loan from Derby. Camp did admirably, but there seemed no real desire on Grant's part to take that deal any further and when Gallacher was left out for the second time in January, it was 21-year-old David Marshall, on loan from Celtic, who took over - in theory, for the rest of the season.

But Marshall's ankle injury in only his fifth match, in the FA Cup at Chelsea, gave Gallacher three more full games to stake his claim.

The fact that the Scotland international was axed for a third time - and for the second time after an away win, 3-2 at Luton - made it perfectly clear that Grant did not see him as his number one.

In Gallacher's defence, it should be said he has been responsible for nine of City's 12 clean sheets in all competitions this season, but the manager's comments on Thursday make it fairly obvious that he is looking to start next season with a new first choice, or possibly someone we've seen before.

Grant has admitted that he has marked Gordon Strachan's card about Marshall and would like first refusal if the Celtic man becomes available in the summer.

On the grounds of age and ability, it is easy to see why Marshall is an attractive proposition - a player who could come into the side in his early 20s, like Chris Woods, Bryan Gunn and Robert Green before him, develop his game and cement his place for years to come.

Whether he is a realistic target, either financially or in terms of availability, only the summer will tell.

In the meantime, Warner, hailed by his colleagues as a reassuring figure, must keep up the good work and wait to see what transpires at Carrow Road and Craven Cottage during the close season.

The great irony of City's goalkeeping saga is that Wales international Darren Ward, offloaded on a free transfer by Nigel Worthington at the end of last season after a back operation, has now played 31 senior games for Sunderland since getting into Roy Keane's side in October. After last night's 3-2 home win over Burnley, he, at least, is poised for a return to the Premiership.

t Sunderland's gate of 44,448 last night was the biggest for any Championship match this season.

The sudden fervour shown at the prospect of a return to the Premiership under Roy Keane, as reflected by such an attendance, will doubtless help perpetuate the myth that no one loves football as much, or is so hungry for success, as fans in the North East.

But given that the attendance against Burnley was 13,000 above Sunderland's average for the previous 22 home games, and more than 20,000 higher than their lowest crowd of the season, one is tempted to ask where all the part-timers have been hiding.

Were Norwich City fans to blow so hot and cold, we might have been looking at average gates of, say, 16,000 this season. In fact, the average before today's game against Southampton was 24,503. Not bad for a team that hasn't been in the top six since September.

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