Cureton is worth a gamble

Sports writer Chris Lakey takes a look at Norwich City manager Peter Grant's transfer options.

Four, five, six - the numbers are clear, it's just the names of Peter Grant's transfer targets we're not sure of.

And because we're not sure who they are, we don't know where Grant is looking to strengthen.

So where do you start? From the back is the easiest, because Grant has never denied that finding a goalkeeper who can play 46 games a season is a priority.

Look at the great sides of the last decade or two, they've all had quality keepers. Petr Cech at Chelsea, David Seaman at Arsenal, Peter Schmeichel at Manchester United - to name but three.


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Get a good keeper in and the defence is a damned sight happier and more comfortable.

Paul Gallacher is clearly not Grant's first choice - no amount of good work on the training field can change that fact. David Marshall - whose loan spell was cut short by injury - would appear to be top of his shopping list, although his current club Celtic may offer a more appetising future, depending on where Gordon Strachan's first choice, Artur Boruc, ends up.

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Grant may also face competition from other clubs wanting Marshall's services - although the Celtic connection and last year's time at Carrow Road would give him an advantage. There's no doubt Marshall looked quality while he was here.

Other names on the list will include Lee Camp and Tony Warner, but Camp seems set for QPR and Warner might be too expensive. And if you want someone who is going to hold down the position for a few years, age isn't on Warner's side.

Burnley's Danny Coyne is another name in the frame. Maybe a litle bit of patience on that point would be beneficial: Joe Lewis has finally had senior game experience with Stockport, and didn't do badly by all accounts, so a year as number two might give him that season to make the step-up. It has to happen some time.

The City defence poses a lot more questions. The arrival of Simon Lappin has helped solve a problem at left-back, where skipper Adam Drury had no competition at all - and no replacement for when he was injured.

But the right-back spot has been a thorn in Grant's side. Full-backs have to have an attacking edge to their game, but Jurgen Colin hasn't got that, which is perhaps why he lost his place to Andy Hughes.

Hughes is a midfielder by trade and, while he has been “adopted” by the fans because of his never-say-die attitude, it's his performances that are important - and he isn't a specialist right-back. Last season he was the best there was - for the new season, Grant needs someone who earns his corn at right-back. Jon Otsemobor appears to be on his way to Carrow Road and would seem favourite to fill the problematic right-back berth.

If he does join, Grant has a specialist, plus decent cover in Colin and the adaptable Hughes.

That leaves the centre of defence, a vital area which was particularly hard hit at times last season. On the books we have Gary Doherty and Jason Shackell. A decent enough partnership, but that's it. Dion Dublin covered there last season, and was brilliant, but with his future still up in the air, it means there is no real cover for Doherty and Shackell.

Hughes, possibly Drury, could do a job there at a push, but relying on them would be wrong. Grant has given Matthew Halliday a one-year deal, but the local lad is inexperienced and looks likely to be sent on loan next season.

Dublin would, clearly, be a tough man to replace, but Grant, who left himself short last season by allowing Craig Fleming to leave, must act to bring in cover and competition.

So, three new players already wanted - goalkeeper, right-back and central defender. We're running out of numbers and we haven't even touched midfield and attack.

Grant has got the numbers here, but has he got the quality? Youssef Safri and Dickson Etuhu are surely up to the job. Safri didn't have the best of seasons and there is always talk of him being unsettled, while Etuhu seems to be finally winning over the doubters. More consistency and those Premiership suitors will come flooding back for an undoubted quality player.

The summer rest should do Etuhu good.

That leaves us with Mark Fotheringham, Lappin, Hughes, Luke Chadwick, Michael Spillane and Robert Eagle.

It really ought to be enough - it certainly is numbers wise - but is the skill level there? Perhaps Grant has his eye on one quality midfielder - there are many who hope he does. Perhaps Europe holds some eastern promise.

However, let's say he plays four in the middle, then he has eight players to choose from - and that's assuming that we count wide men Lee Croft and Darren Huckerby as strikers.

However, keeping his faith in the same midfield probably isn't wise - don't forget City finished 16th in the table. Not replacing players or mixing it up a little suggests you're happy with that. Grant isn't.

So, keeper, right-back, central defender, midfielder. Which leaves us with just about enough time and money to get hold of a striker. Huckerby's role presumably isn't in any danger, Croft has competition from Chadwick - so the assumption is he is looking for a central hit man. He has Robert Earnshaw, Chris Brown and Chris Martin, with Ryan Jarvis set to return after a loan spell at Orient and 16-year-old Kris Renton in the wings.

Peter Thorne and Paul McVeigh have departed - Dublin may follow - and although Brown will seem like a new signing after his long injury absence, it doesn't take away the fact that Grant is three strikers shy of what he was six months ago.

And it could get worse - Earnshaw is not certain to be here either at the start of the season or at the end of January. If a bid comes in, City will have to consider it long and hard. And because it could happen halfway through the season, Grant might just reason that it would be better to get a replacement in now. So where does that replacement come from?

My betting is Colchester might seem a good place to start. Jamie Cureton did a superb job for Geraint Williams' team last season, but you just get the feeling that he'd love to have another go at Carrow Road, the place he left back in 1996 without having played to his full potential.

Colchester's league position was better than City's last season, but Carow Road and Layer Road are miles apart. At 31, and with a wise head on his shoudlers, Cureton might fancy a stab at Norwich before it's too late.

Whether it's Cureton or not, a striker could be the one that takes up a big chunk of Grant's budget. A striker could also be the one who helps fill the coffers too.

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