Lee out of City's reach
Michael Bailey Bryan Gunn has conceded Norwich City's financial muscle was not enough to prise Alan Lee away from tonight's pre-season opponents, Crystal Palace. The Canaries will come up against the former Ipswich target man at Selhurst Park (7.30pm).
Bryan Gunn has conceded Norwich City's financial muscle was not enough to prise Alan Lee away from tonight's pre-season opponents, Crystal Palace.
The Canaries will come up against the former Ipswich target man at Selhurst Park (7.30pm) in their penultimate friendly ahead of the League One kick-off on August 8.
In fact, City fans will probably get the chance to see Lee - the man who dearly wanted to be the Canaries' new number nine this season, following seven games on loan at the club last term - on the same pitch as Grant Holt, whose �500,000 arrival from Shrewsbury on Friday all but completed Gunn's summer rebuilding job.
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Lee, 30, spoke last season of his desire to stay at Carrow Road on a permanent basis but with Ipswich believed to still be waiting for the majority of Lee's �600,000 fee from Palace, the Canaries were effectively priced out of the move by the Eagles' need to recoup their spending.
A potential swap deal with Wes Hoolahan had also been mooted over the summer, but Lee seems to be back in favour with Palace boss Neil Warnock and has been a regular starter during their pre-season preparations.
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“The financial side was always going to be difficult to match what Palace were asking,” admitted Gunn. “He is a Crystal Palace player, he's under contract, I believe he's doing very well in their pre-season matches and he's currently starting as the first choice striker.
“I would read into it that Neil Warnock is happy with him and his work in pre-season, and I probably can't see anything changing between now and the start of the season in terms of Neil wanting him to leave Crystal Palace.
“It will be interesting to come up against him tonight. I'm sure our centre-backs will be in for a very tough game, and I'm sure he'll know that he will be in for a very tough game from our centre-backs as well.”
Championship side Palace won 3-0 at Bristol Rovers on Saturday and drew 2-2 at Brentford last week - opponents that will be travelling to Carrow Road next season, and tonight's fixture should give the clearest indication yet as to how City's season may shape up.
One thing the game will indicate is who Gunn is considering for his starting XI against Colchester United, at Carrow Road on Saturday week - no more fitness-only exercises this pre-season.
Gunn said: “That was probably the idea up to this Saturday, but now we're 180 minutes away from being ready for the start of the season, so we'll need to start shaking things up and be slightly more focused on the first game of the season.”
Matty Pattison and Cody McDonald are set to miss out as they nurse calf and knee injuries respectively, while Rhoys Wiggins is continuing his rehabilitation from a summer operation, although youngsters Korey Smith and Luke Daley are both back in training.
New goalkeeper Michael Theoklitos is set to make his first appearance in a Norwich shirt and New Zealand triallist Kris Bright is included in the squad after his 20-minute run-out against Manchester United on Saturday.
But the Palace game will come too quickly for Wednesday's new signing, Scottish midfielder Stephen Hughes, who is expected to take his bow against Wigan at Carrow Road on Saturday.
“Stephen Hughes is just getting up to fitness, football fitness, and he's been working really hard,” said Gunn. “He's not going to feature in the squad tonight, but he'll certainly be ready for the game against Wigan.
“He was a little bit behind in terms of his pre-season work. He'd been doing some running and weights, but certainly not any of the fitness testing and all the things that our lads have done.
“So he's had quite a rigorous programme, we'll continue to work him hard and, as I say, come Saturday he'll be ready for some game time.”
Triallist Jens Berthel Askou will not feature at Palace after returning to Denmark for personal reasons after Saturday's game.
However, the defender has been offered a permanent deal by Gunn and could become City's 11th summer signing if he agrees to join.
Norwich City squad (probable): Theoklitos, Alnwick, Otsemobor, Spillane, Doherty, Nelson, Dumic, Drury, Lappin, Whaley, McVeigh, Tudur Jones, Gill, Adeyemi, Hoolahan, Holt, Cureton, Martin, Bright.