Norwich City boss is sweet on Ayala

Norwich boss Paul Lambert believes prospective Spanish recruit Dani Ayala would be a major asset for the Canaries.

City look to have edged Premier League new boys Swansea and Championship outfit Hull out of the running for the �850,000-rated Liverpool centre back.

Lambert confirmed yesterday the 20-year-old former Seville youngster was set for a medical ahead of completing a potential move next week. Lambert revealed he is a big admirer of the defender who featured against the Canaries in loan spells at Hull and Derby last season.

'He's here at the minute, he's talking, and I think he's having a medical which we'll find out later on if everything's okay,' said Lambert. 'If that goes through it'll be next week before I see him. I just think you've got to have a lot of cover throughout the coming games and a long hard season.

'He's a young player and obviously played against us for Hull and Derby and I thought he was strong and aerial as well, he was somebody we thought could benefit the football club. There are things going on at the minute, but we'll just wait and see if it transpires. It'll probably be next week before something happens but we have put in a bid. We're more or less there. It was something we thought might transpire so we made an enquiry. I spoke to Kenny (Dalglish) and Kenny was great about it.'

Ayala's potential arrival comes after left-back Steven Smith completed a move to League One club Preston. The clubs had initially been in talks over a season-long loan switch, but Smith has signed a one-year contract at Deepdale with the option of a further year.

Smith arrived on a free transfer from Rangers last summer but failed to establish himself in Lambert's plans and spent three months on loan at Aberdeen. Lambert confirmed there are no imminent departures planned for the likes of Cody McDonald or the remaining senior players set to be omitted from his 25-man Premier League squad.

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'There are one or two little things going on with the other lads, but nothing concrete,' he said.

Defender Elliott Ward and striker James Vaughan miss today's Wigan curtain raiser with ankle injuries from the club's Germany tour. Russell Martin (calf) and Andrew Crofts (ankle) returned to training on Thursday.

'Russell doesn't seem too bad,' said Lambert. 'If there is no reaction then we'll see how he is. Crofty also trained as well for the first time and as long as there is no reaction they'll travel.

'I know the team that will play and when we get there the lads themselves will know. It has been quite a tough decision but it's not about the individuals, it is about the team. We have to get a group going, not just 11 lads. You won't go through the season with the exact same personnel.'

Lambert knows first hand what to expect after watching the Latics conclude their pre-season preparations last weekend with a 1-0 friendly win over Villarreal.

'We've had them watched and I watched them last Sunday. It was the first time I had been up there and it was a lovely stadium,' he said. 'Roberto (Martinez) has done a brilliant job there and he was fantastic at Swansea as well.

'It is new for us, Wigan are an established side and a good side, so I am under no illusions as to how hard it is going to be. Norwich playing anybody on the first day was going to be really hard. We have shown the lads one or two different little things and I am sure they will take it on board and give us everything they have got.'

• Norwich's Carling Cup second round tie against MK Dons at Carrow Road has been scheduled for Tuesday, August 23 (7.45pm).

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