Hughton will harbour just one wish for his international contingent

Posted by Paddy Davitt

Clive Brunskill/Getty ImagesSebastien Bassong is key Norwich figure away on international duty.

Chris Hughton told the tale of how his mobile phone was in danger of going into meltdown during the frenetic January transfer window. He might have cause to reach for the mute button again over the course of the current international break.

Only this time around, in a season that is edging closer to Premier League survival, it will not be agents demanding Hughton's precious time, it might be any number of his players scattered around the globe delivering bad tidings after their international exertions. One of the key tenets of Hughton's ability to navigate the Canaries away from a sustained relegation threat has been his success in settling on a starting eleven. With the odd exception here or there, Hughton's Norwich, after his initial acclimatisation period, have exhibited a remarkable consistency in selection.

John Ruddy was the undisputed number one before a long term thigh injury suffered at Everton in December opened the door for Mark Bunn to underline that he is a more than adequate deputy. How ironic Bunn's absence for the next game at struggling Wigan after the international hiatus will be as a result of his Sunderland suspension rather than any dip in form or fitness.

Russell Martin has managed to fight off the challenge of Steven Whittaker, with the Scottish international troubled by a nagging hip problem for prolonged spells. Michael Turner and Sebastien Bassong have forged an impenetrable barrier at times in central defence, Javier Garrido has added a dash of technical proficiency and continental flair at left-back.

Hughton's midfield mix has paired the tigerish Bradley Johnson with Alex Tettey. Jonny Howson is the fall back option, and in advanced areas Robert Snodgrass and Anthony Pilkington have been the preferred wide players to link with Wes Hoolahan. It is only really deep in enemy territory over recent weeks that Hughton has brokered a degree of experimentation in a bid to solve a season-long conundrum - how to embellish Norwich's defensive foundations with a dash of attacking flair.

But all Hughton's meticulous planning both to this advanced stage of the Premier League season and the crucial final run-in hinges on five of those men who started Sunday's battling draw on Wearside returning safe and sound over these next few days. The prospect of a City line up shorn of the totemic Bassong or the creative genius of Hoolahan or the selfless Snodgrass for that pivotal trip to Wigan on March 30 is an unpalatable thought.

Norwich's squad simply does not have the depth of talent to cope with the injury absences of such key performers. Bassong, Kei Kamara and back-up striker Simeon Jackson have the added inconvenience of long hauls to Africa and the Emirates respectively.

Hughton, the cultured player, reached World Cup and European Championship finals with the Republic of Ireland. Hughton, the manager, this week spoke honestly about the modern-day omnipotence of the club game and the vast financial rewards for sustained Premier League membership that inevitably cast a pervasive shadow over the international version.

Few would dispute playing for your country remains an immense honour and source of pride for the current generation - just not to the detriment of the Canaries' Premier League prospects. Silence will be golden for Hughton over the next week or so.

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