For whom the bell tolls

David Cuffley One of Norwich City manager Glenn Roeder's prime objectives when rebuilding his first team squad during the summer was to have two players competing for every single position.

David Cuffley

One of Norwich City manager Glenn Roeder's prime objectives when rebuilding his first team squad during the summer was to have two players competing for every single position.

This he achieved before the Championship campaign began at Coventry five weeks ago, with one exception - finding four strikers to compete for two places up front.

The arrival of Frenchman Antoine Sibierski on loan from Premier League club Wigan on deadline day looks to have provided him with that crucial fourth option in attack, with last season's top scorer, Jamie Cureton, and loan pair Arturo Lupoli and Omar Koroma competing to play alongside him.

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However, Darel Russell could argue, after his performances as an emergency striker - scoring in the first two home games against Blackpool and Birmingham - that he has already given his manager another valuable alternative.

Russell produced an encouraging flurry of goals in pre-season matches, including two against Colchester at Carrow Road, and in resurrecting the attacking role he played in his schoolboy days, he proved he has not lost his eye for goal.

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And Roeder is only too happy to have plenty of options.

"I never have a problem picking the team," he said this week. "The problem I have is when I've only got 11 fit, which has happened too often in my life. That gives you a headache but having everyone fit is brilliant."

There is one area, though, in particular, where he appears to be spoilt for choice, at least numerically. Just who will emerge as first choice for the two wide midfield positions?

Wes Hoolahan, despite getting a dressing down from the manager at Cardiff when he was substituted at half-time, had started every match before today's Championship trip to Plymouth, and though he seems to have something of a roving commission, one would expect the former Blackpool winger to be prime candidate to fill the left-sided role, with Matty Pattison and the versatile Ryan Bertrand giving Roeder other alternatives on the left.

On the opposite flank, the picture is less clear, with nearly as many right-wingers as Thatcher's Cabinet.

Lee Croft, now in his third season at Carrow Road, started the opening game of the season at Coventry, but for the last three league matches Pattison has been a surprise choice in the right-sided role and has produced arguably his best performances since arriving from Newcastle last November.

There is another candidate coming up on the rails, however, with summer signing David Bell making big strides in training and likely to be challenging for a call-up within the next few weeks.

Bell suffered a cracked bone in his ankle in pre-season training with Luton, but Roeder decided to press ahead with the signing and supervise his recovery.

He said it was too early to consider Bell for the Plymouth trip or this week's two home games against Queen's Park Rangers and Sheffield United, but it appears the 24-year-old's progress at Colney has already confirmed the manager's high opinion of his new recruit.

"David has trained all week - he's fine," said Roeder. "It's early days for him but I've been really happy with what I've seen of David playing football.

"You watch someone from the stands and you imagine he can fit into the grand scheme of things or the plans that you have for your team.

"You think you've seen things when you go and watch a player play for their previous club and you hope it's proved right.

"But there is nothing better than having a first-hand look at them at the training ground, being among them, watching them work and train and play and what I've seen of David Bell so far, he's a very good footballer.

"I would have said he's still a good two or three weeks away but it's just great to have him on the training ground for the first time with us, every day. He has some good football quality in his feet.

"From what I've seen in training, David Bell playing for us is something to look forward to."

All of which could be very good news for the Canaries but, potentially, an obstacle to Croft and one man very much on the fringes of things so far this season, Luke Chadwick. After starting at Coventry, Croft has come off the bench in the last three league games, to very good effect in the second half at Cardiff but less so against Birmingham.

He at least has figured in the manager's plans, but Chadwick was still awaiting his first outing of the season as the Canaries headed for Devon yesterday.

With the exception of the luckless Adam Drury - who has had nearly as much rebuilding work over the past two years as the Bionic Man, and now has a metal plate in his face after fracturing his cheekbone in three places - Chadwick has been City's most accident-prone player.

A badly gashed knee sustained on his debut at Ipswich and recurring problems with his shoulder, forcing him to undergo surgery last season, have prevented the former Manchester United man from giving City fans a lasting impression of his true capabilities.

There is no doubt Roeder is an admirer of Chadwick's ability, for he said as much soon after taking over as manager.

Chadwick was one of the better performers in Roeder's early games in charge, impressing in the televised game against Ipswich and scoring the first goal against Coventry to set up a first win for his new boss.

Roeder said at the time that he felt Chadwick was a quality player, but lacked confidence in his own ability and needed more encouragement than some of his colleagues. It was unfortunate that he was sidelined soon afterwards by the pressing need for a shoulder operation.

His pre-season appearances were limited, both on tour and at home, where he was given only the final 10 minutes in friendlies against Tottenham and Colchester, and he was among the seven substitutes for the Carling Cup game against MK Dons without getting on to the field.

One would hope, after just 18 senior appearances and two goals in nearly two years with the club, that Chadwick can still rediscover the form and confidence we saw briefly last season, and give Croft, Bell, Pattison and the rest a run for their money.

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