Grounds heads back to fill defensive gap

Paddy DavittNorwich City boss Glenn Roeder yesterday backed returning Middlesbrough loan recruit Jonathan Grounds to solve his defensive headache.Grounds agreed a two-month emergency deal and goes straight into Roeder's depleted squad for the Championship trip to Sheffield United on Saturday.Paddy Davitt

Norwich City boss Glenn Roeder yesterday backed returning Middlesbrough loan recruit Jonathan Grounds to solve his defensive headache.

Grounds agreed a two-month emergency deal and goes straight into Roeder's depleted squad for the Championship trip to Sheffield United on Saturday. The 20-year-old's early season spell in Norfolk was cut short by Teesiders' boss Gareth Southgate after just five appearances. Boro have inserted a 24-hour recall option after the initial 28-day period and Grounds will also be unavailable for City's FA Cup replay against Charlton.

The City boss admitted he was delighted to finally find a perfect partner to play alongside recognised centre back Gary Doherty. Midfield dynamo Sammy Clingan plus full-backs Adam Drury and Elliot Omozusi have all been press-ganged into a central defensive shift as Roeder was forced to mix-and-match over the first half of the campaign.

Roeder's attempts to unearth a permanent replacement for the departed Jason Shackell were hit by a season-ending injury to Dejan Stefanovic, while Celtic loanee John Kennedy cut short his temporary stint before Christmas due to a fresh knee problem.


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'It's a position that we've known we've needed to fill, with Gary Doherty being the only fit, natural centre-back currently at the club,' said Roeder. 'Jonathan did extremely well with us prior to Christmas and we know what we're getting - an exceptional player and an exceptional character.'

Grounds started Middlesbrough's Premiership win at Wigan following his recall in October but the Boro academy product was hauled off in the 5-0 humbling to Chelsea at the Riverside later that month and has not featured since.

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Meanwhile, Latics' Steve Bruce yesterday confirmed Antoine Sibierski will return to the north west when his initial Carrow Road loan spell ends. Bruce scotched rumours Norwich had agreed a free transfer for the Frenchman. The 34-year-old's final scheduled City appearance is Barnsley's Championship visit on January 17.

'Sibi is due to come back on January 17 and I've no problem about that happening,' said Bruce. 'The loan has served its purpose as Sibi has got some games under his belt and would be available for our squad. At the moment there hasn't been an approach from Norwich to take him for longer, so I assume he will come back to us.'

The injury-hit frontman has scored twice in 15 Norwich appearances and appears surplus to requirements at the Premiership outfit after Bruce allowed Sibierski to play in last weekend's FA Cup tie at Charlton.

Bruce is expected to tie up a reported �4.5m deal for Colombian striker Hugo Rodallega later this week after agreeing a fee with the 23-year-old's Mexican club Necaxa.

Motherwell boss Mark McGhee yesterday fuelled speculation reported City striker target Chris Porter is set to return to England. Championship rivals Sheffield United and Blackpool have also been linked with a January move for the 25-year-old, who is out of contract at Fir Park in the summer.

McGhee ruled out a potential switch to SPL rivals Hearts after Jambos boss Csaba Laszlo's revealed he was a confirmed admirer ahead of last night's league meeting between the clubs.

'Laszlo is out of order,' said McGhee. 'There is a procedure and rules you are meant to go through when you are interested in a player but he or Hearts have made no contact with us. I certainly can't see Chris Porter signing for Hearts. He came to Scotland to further his career before he moved back down south and that situation has never changed. I have spoken to him and he still wants to go back down to play at a decent level in England.'

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