Window may be open, but City pickings look slim

Chris Lakey The shopping list has been neatly folded into his inside pocket for a while now, and tomorrow the phones in certain managerial offices around the country will be ringing red-hot.

Chris Lakey

The shopping list has been neatly folded into his inside pocket for a while now, and tomorrow the phones in certain managerial offices around the country will be ringing red-hot.

And the word that will be bandied about most? Loan. Quickly followed by: please.

Glenn Roeder believes transfer fees will soon become a thing of the past anyway, but with clubs charging other clubs just to take away their players on temporary deals, it's a matter of semantics. Loan fee, short-term transfer fee, whatever - it all comes down to a payment of some sort.

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A full-blown transfer fee and the accompanying contract and obligations it brings can be off-putting for many clubs, which is why the loan system will be used like never before.

Roeder needs to strengthen primarily in defence and up front, so who's who on his list?

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The only name we know for sure is that of Leroy Lita, the Reading player who has done so well in three months at Carrow Road but who now finds his parent club wanting to offload him next month before they lose him for nothing in the summer when his contract's up. Lita won't struggle to find a home in six months' time, and Roeder appears confident that he will reject any approaches and spend the second half of the season at City before negotiating a profitable move with all-comers in the close season.

With Antoine Sibierski set to return to Wigan, Jamie Cureton on loan at Barnsley, Arturo Lupoli not flavour of the month, Carl Cort still not match fit and OJ Koroma out of the picture, Roeder may well need more than one new striker coming in.

Who are the candidates?

Roeder looks to have missed out on Arsenal's Jay Simpson who is set to join West Brom, while another young Gunner, Carlos Vela, might be beyond reach, with a regular first team place beckoning.

Manchester United's Danny Wellbeck is from a similar mould to Simpson - he holds the ball up well and is strong and brave - but is another who may be lined up for the top-flight, maybe even at Old Trafford, while Sir Alex Ferguson may be willing to offload Angolan striker Manucho.

Steffen Iversen was on Roeder's radar in August and the Rosenborg striker will be kicking his heels until the Norwegian League resumes in April - although recent surgery on an ankle injury might put Roeder off, as well as interest from Australian side the Newcastle Jets.

Portsmouth's David Nugent is unwanted at Fratton Park, although with Jermain Defoe possibly on his way Tony Adams may be reluctant to be caught short of strikers.

Wigan will get Sibierski back but might be prepared to grant Henri Camara his wish and allow him out on loan. Newcastle's Andy Carroll will almost certainly be on Roeder's list - although his availability changes with each injury to a first team player at St James Park. In an ideal world, Carroll would go out and get some regular first team action and Roeder would snap him up, given his admission that he prefers to take on people he knows.

If Roeder were to look down the division, which he is reluctant to do, he'll find Bury's Andy Bishop still banging them in - but still in League Two. He's a big lad and a good presence up front, but he'd cost money - you don't loan from League Two into the Championship.

An outside bet? How about a return for Ched Evans, now that Manchester City are preparing for their first real dip into the Abu Dhabi United coffers? Mark Hughes is in the market for some big names, and that will drop Evans, who has started only three Premier League games this season, further down the pecking order. He was a huge hit at Carrow Road last season, with 10 goals in 20 starts - how about him and Lita up front?

Equally problematic for Roeder will be sorting out his defensive problems: Dejan Stefanovic's injury absence for the rest of the season is a huge blow, but to then see John Kennedy go back to Celtic with another knee injury was just rank bad luck. It left behind Gary Doherty as the only dedicated centre half. Adam Drury can do a job there, but Roeder has preferred Elliott Omozusi - it worked a few times but the youngster was poor against Nottingham Forest on Boxing Day: much better if he's allowed to compete for the right-back slot with Jon Otsemobor. Left back is covered with Drury understudying Ryan Bertrand, not to everyone's liking.

So Roeder needs at least one central defender. The Newcastle connection comes to the fore again, with their reserves skipper David Edgar on the list. Edgar scored in the 5-1 home defeat by Liverpool at the weekend, filling in the gaps left behind by injuries - and yet again his availability depends on other circumstances.

Ipswich's Alex Bruce has been a target, despite Roeder's denials, while Arsenal's Gavin Hoyte is another of the players that Wenger wants to see gain experience.

Elliott Ward was linked in a swap deal which would have taken David Bell to Coventry, but Roeder was furious that the Sky Blues had let that particular cat out of the bag and may not revisit it. James Tomkins' one-month loan at Derby from West Ham expires today, and with Paul Jewell no longer at Pride Park, plans to extend it may be shelved - he's only 19 but has lots of promise.

Much more experienced are Hull's Wayne Brown, who is struggling to get back into the Premier League team's squad. He's been on loan at Preston and is probably more suited to Championship football. The same might be said of Danny Shittu, who had his first start for Bolton in three months at the weekend. Shittu is not only a half decent defender, he's dangerous in the opposition area too.

In midfield, Roeder has enough players not to worry too much about selection - Sammy Clingan and Matty Pattison appear to be the chosen two, with Wes Hoolahan playing a more advanced role, and Lee Croft and David Bell on the flanks - Mark Fotheringham and Darel Russell provide the back-up.

But safety in numbers is no guarantee of quality and if the right player becomes available the manager could be tempted.

One of his old clubs, West Ham might just allow Lee Bowyer to go - Roeder signed him for the Hammers first time around - while there is always the possibility that City's scouting network might unearth a gem from across the Irish Sea - Institute's Philip Lowry has had trials but the trail appears to have gone cold.

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