Lambert will soon have a full squad to pick from
Paul Lambert could soon have the 'luxury' of a fully fit squad for the first time this season as he plots the Canaries' push at the top end of the Championship table.
The City boss has rarely gone into a game this season with a full complement of players, either because of suspension or, more often, because of injury. His battle plans – the latest of which is to extend Henri Lansbury's loan from Arsenal until the end of May – have continued in recent days. And with senior players Andrew Surman and Elliott Ward on the verge of returning to action after injury, City could soon have just the boost they need as the battle at the top becomes ever tighter.
'Henri coming back will be a big one for us, which is great,' said Lambert. 'That will be a big plus for us because he can make things happen. He is an offensive player, which is great for us. Surman will be back shortly I hope, Ward is coming back, so a couple of lads have gone out to play games; we're doing not too bad.'
Lambert's decision to allow five of his players – Matt Gill, Owain Tudur Jones, Luke Daley, Jens Berthel Askou and Oli Johnson – to go out on month-long loans should also have an effect at Carrow Road, with the hope they will all return with match fitness levels boosted and ready if called upon.
Injuries have been an ever-present this season, even from day one when skipper Grant Holt was forced to start from the bench because he had missed much of pre-season.
Surman suffered the first of two knee problems before the end of August, while centre-half Michael Nelson played just four games before an ankle injury sidelined him for four months. Adam Drury missed two and a half months because of a hamstring problem, Zak Whitbread only appeared at the very end of 2010, while Stephen Hughes has yet to start for the first team as he shakes off an ankle problem. Even Lansbury fell by the wayside, missing four games because of a hamstring problem. But the list of walking wounded has finally started to shrink, and should Surman's and Ward's returns go to plan, the only member of the playing staff out will be back-up goalkepeer Declan Rudd, who has a broken jaw.
That would increase competition for places at Carrow Road – and the manager insists his players have the character to cope with the disappointment of missing out.
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'The thing we have got, even when lads are out of the team, is there is not a bad professional at the club, which is great because I will need everybody to do something, so it is important we have everybody pulling in the same direction,' he said.
There remains one piece of business to be concluded before the next window closes at 11pm on Monday. Brighton have made public City's interest in Elliott Bennett, but while they say they will fight to keep the young winger, it is clear the situation is on-going.
'As Brighton have already said, we've made an inquiry, which is where it is at the minute and we'll see what happens,' said Lambert.