Adam is more than a City bit-part player

David Cuffley One of the contradictions of Norwich City's alarming shortage of first team players at the moment is that the longest-serving member of the squad can hardly get a kick.

David Cuffley

One of the contradictions of Norwich City's alarming shortage of first team players at the moment is that the longest-serving member of the squad can hardly get a kick.

“The squad is down to the ridiculous, the tank is running nearly on empty,” said manager Glenn Roeder yesterday, pointing out that he had just three senior defenders contracted to the club.

As such it is rather ironic that before today's FA Cup third round trip to Charlton, Adam Drury - former captain, former player of the year and close to completing eight years at Carrow Road - had made just eight senior appearances this season.


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After spending the last six months of last season on the sidelines following an operation on his right knee, it amounts to a frustratingly inactive 14 months for a player who, in probably his finest hour with the Canaries, stood on City Hall balcony in 2004 in front of a crowd of 50,000 or more to receive the Football League championship trophy.

Drury has made 278 first-team appearances for City since signing from Peterborough United - “the best defender outside the Premiership” according to Barry Fry - for �500,000 in March 2001.

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Of the current playing staff, only midfielder Darel Russell made his senior debut for the club longer ago, in 1998, but Russell's four years at Stoke effectively make Drury the longest-serving player in the senior squad.

After the frustration of last season, it was not until the Carling Cup trip to MK Dons in August that Drury made a first team appearance under the current City boss.

And though Roeder has frequently spoken of being a big fan of the 30-year-old left-back, only twice this season has Drury been in the starting eleven for two successive games.

He has had more time under the knife and in the treatment room - thanks to a fractured cheekbone and an ankle injury - but the main reason for the amount of time he has spent sitting in the stand or on the bench is, of course, Roeder's preference for on-loan Ryan Bertrand at left-back.

Bertrand, 19, made 42 appearances in 2008 for City after his arrival from Chelsea last January.

With the exception of striker Ched Evans and centre-half Martin Taylor, he was the most impressive of Roeder's loan recruits last season, and if his form this term has not consistently hit the same heights, his undoubted quality has given the manager a difficult decision over the left-back berth.

The unlucky Drury, having to fill in at centre-back more than once, admitted in an interview in November that he had had “a conversation” with Roeder over his absence from the side, but as a model professional, he was certainly not about to rock the boat publicly and was generous in his praise for Bertrand, 11 years his junior.

“I've said before I think he's a top quality player and I think he'll go on to be a big name in the Premier League. And if I can help in any way I can I will,” said Drury at the time.

“The important thing is the gaffer picks the team. It's not my fault or Ryan's fault if one is ahead of the other. It's a good friendly rivalry and we want it all round the team and all round the squad. The gaffer's said he wants two players for every position and that's the way it is.”

That attitude is admirable but, with the likelihood that the second half of the season will be little more than another survival battle, City need all the experience they can muster and Drury would be one of the first four or five names on my teamsheet.

In fact, there is a persuasive argument for playing both Drury and Bertrand in the same side in the way that Roeder employed Bertrand in a wide left role in front of another loan signing, full-back Mo Camara, last season.

The Canaries lost only one match when Camara and Bertrand completed 90 minutes in the same line-up and using Drury and Bertrand in a similar way would give their left side a more solid look at a time when they are conceding far too many goals.

It could be argued that this would limit City's attacking options, but both are natural left-sided players capable of getting forward to good effect and, if nothing else, it would be an option away from home, where the Canaries have been beaten in eight of their last nine Championship games.

t I CAN HEAR THE BLADES BEING SHARPENED

A trip to Bramall Lane is probably not the fixture one would choose next after losing both Christmas games to sit just two places and two points clear of the Championship's dreaded three relegation slots.

And with City beaten in eight of their last nine away matches, promotion-chasing Sheffield United may well be licking their lips at the prospect of taking them on next Saturday and trying to avenge their defeat at Carrow Road in September.

It is unlikely to be an afternoon for the faint-hearted, with Darel Russell, pictured, suspended to add to manager Glenn Roeder's list of absentees.

Roeder will be desperate to bring in one or two new faces in the first full week of the January transfer window, with a big centre-half and a striker his top priorities, but he was making no promises yesterday.

“I'm very much one of those for seeing is believing,” he said. “When people tell me you can have this, you can have that or we'll help you here, we'll help you there, I say send them down, let's get them signed, then I'll believe it.

“There is no point me saying we are very close to signing somebody on Monday and then, if it doesn't happen, you look foolish.

“But we need to go into the market as quickly as possible, in other words before Sheffield United.

“January is not a good window to do business in. It's very difficult to come up with experienced players this time of year.”

Middlesbrough pair Jonathan Grounds and Matthew Bates, Roeder's previous loan recruits, may offer a sound alternative to more experienced defensive options, though both are currently in and around Boro's first team squad, with Bates playing for the first time since February in the 1-0 defeat by Manchester United at Old Trafford on Monday night.

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