Youssouf Mulumbu has to prove his worth to earn new Norwich City deal
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Youssouf Mulumbu could be in line for a Championship reprieve at Brentford as he earns an unexpected chance to push his claims for a new Norwich City deal.
Alex Neil confirmed the combative midfielder was left out of his matchday squad against Reading on Boxing Day, ahead of linking up with the DR Congo squad for the upcoming African Cup of Nations in Gabon. Mulumbu is out of contract next summer and Neil made it clear recently any talks on a fresh City deal for the 29-year-old can wait until results improve.
Norwich have lost eight of their last 10 league games to fall seven points behind sixth-placed Sheffield Wednesday. Graham Dorrans' knee ligament injury and Jonny Howson's one-game ban for his Royals' red card reduce the Scot's central midfield options for the crucial New Year's Eve trip to Griffin Park.
Both were key figures in the recent 5-0 league romp over the Bees at Carrow Road but are unavailable for Saturday's return, along with Louis Thompson (pelvic injury).
'The problem with Youssouf is he is off to the African Nations so I am going to have to rely on other lads between now and pretty much the whole of January and February,' said Neil. 'That is why he was not part of it (Reading). After Saturday that is him away. We are hoping by the time he goes we have Louis Thompson fit and we have Alex (Tettey) as well so there is competition in that area of the pitch.'
Neil praised Mulumbu for his fighting displays at Derby and Barnsley but the 29-year-old was left out at the Madjeski following his pre-Christmas half-time exit against Huddersfield.
'Youssouf has fallen a bit into the same mould as Gary O'Neil last year. Gary didn't have a huge deal of game-time, got himself in the side and kept himself there on merit,' said Neil. 'It is still early days, in terms of him coming back from injury, but if any player performs they are in control of their own destiny.
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'Contract negotiations are not on-going at the moment. He has only got himself in the team and it is about picking up points, so that situation will resolve itself as the months go by. We're at a stage where we need to keep winning games first. If he maintains the levels he can there is no question he strengthens his case.'