A glove story in need of a happy ending

DAVID CUFFLEY The turnover of Norwich City first team players has been as rapid as ever this season.Before today's Coca-Cola Championship trip to Cardiff, the Canaries had used 34 players in the senior side in 42 matches in all competitions.


The turnover of Norwich City first team players has been as rapid as ever this season.

Before today's Coca-Cola Championship trip to Cardiff, the Canaries had used 34 players in the senior side in 42 matches in all competitions.

With 10 games still to be played, that total is already one more than the number used last season, and it's on a par with previous campaigns when there has been a change of manager in mid-term, generally a time of great flux.

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Coincidentally, 34 men pulled on the yellow shirt in 2000-01 when Nigel Worthington replaced Bryan Hamilton as boss in early December.

And if we go back to the days of goal average, stewards in white coats, toilet rolls thrown from the terraces and cushions thrown from the old Main Stand, there were 34 players pressed into first-team duty in 1973-74 when John Bond succeeded Ron Saunders in the Carrow Road hot seat.

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An indication of the comings and goings through Colney's revolving door, not to mention the door to the treatment room, can be gleaned from the fact that of the 34 players appearing in the senior side before today's game at Ninian Park, 18 had made fewer than 10 appearances this term and six are no longer here - seven if we count goalkeeper David Marshall, still technically on loan at Norwich but recuperating in Scotland from the ankle ligament damage he suffered at Chelsea, which has ruled him out for the rest of the season.

Gone in permanent moves are Leon McKenzie, Carl Robinson and Craig Fleming, while loan signings Lee Camp, Patrick Boyle and Jamie Ashdown have long since returned from whence they came. Robert Green departed in August without playing another game.

It has already been confirmed that full-back Matthieu Louis-Jean will not be retained after two injury-plagued years with City, while the future of other out-of-contract men such as Paul McVeigh, Peter Thorne and Ian Henderson, currently on loan at Rotherham, has yet to be announced.

Suffice to say that the City team picture for the start of 2007-08 is likely to have a very different look to the line-up from last July, and not just the playing staff.

One of the first priorities for manager Peter Grant amid all his rebuilding plans will be to sort out the ongoing goalkeeping saga.

Tony Warner, on loan from Fulham until the end of the season, who made his debut in last week's 3-1 win at Barnsley, became the fifth different 'keeper used this season - a postwar club record - and bear in mind that 19-year-old Joe Lewis has been on the substitutes' bench for 22 matches before today's game without actually making a first team appearance. A sixth name on the list remains a possibility before the season is out.

Warner admitted before Tuesday's home game against Derby that he had not discussed what happens when the season is over.

He said: “I haven't really spoken to anybody about that at the moment. I just want to concentrate on each game as it comes and see what happens towards the end of the season.

“It's the way it goes on loans. Certain things happen and you get drafted in at the last moment.”

Scotland international Paul Gallacher has kept his own counsel and his dignity after being dropped by Grant for the third time and, other than praising Gallacher's professionalism and hard work and admitting that “you are never happy when you are left out”, the manager has given little away about his long-term thinking over the post.

Bryan Gunn, in his new football liaison post, helped sort out Warner's arrival but also admitted that City were monitoring Marshall's progress.

“He is one of many we are looking at but he is under contract with Celtic so his situation is slightly different from other people we are looking at,” said Gunn. “Therefore it's a different process you go through when you're identifying players.”

All of which makes it anyone's guess who will be wearing the gloves when the new season gets under way.

One lesson from City's past is that they have generally struggled when there has been a lot of chopping and changing in goal, and their most successful sides generally relied on one rock-like figure between the posts and at the top of the teamsheet. The permanent heir to the throne once occupied by Nethercott, Kennon, Keelan, Woods, Gunn, Marshall and Green is no clearer than it was at the start of the season.

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