Scunthorpe United chairman Steve Wharton continued to be the font of all knowledge on his much-coveted striker Billy Sharp as he today revealed that the Irons had now granted the 21-year-old permission to speak to Wolves – as well as Sheffield Wednesday.
Owls boss Brian Laws revealed yesterday that he was hoping to sit down and discuss a move to Hillsborough with his former charge at Glanford Park sometime “over the next 48 hours”. Floods permitting.
Now it would appear that Mick McCarthy will be afforded the same opportunity with Wharton suggesting that the Andy Keogh factor may yet work to Wolves' advantage as Sharp is offered the opportunity to pal up again with his former Scunthorpe strike partner.
Significantly, however, Wharton also confirmed the impression gathered by insiders at Carrow Road that Sharp had been genuinely impressed by his 'grand tour' of Colney and Carrow Road in the company of City chief Peter Grant.
As long suspected, it could yet come down to a straight choice between Norwich and Wolves with Wharton clearly suggesting that it was far from a done-deal that he was Molineux-bound.
“I thought he would prefer linking up with his old strike partner Andy Keogh at Wolves – but I know he was impressed with what he saw at Norwich,” Wharton told the Scunthorpe Evening Telegraph.
Curiously, the Scunthorpe chairman insisted that both Sheffield Wednesday and Wolves had yet to either match Norwich's long-standing offer or, indeed, the Irons own valuation of the player – but he was still off for talks, anyway.
“We have given him permission to talk to both Wolves and Sheffield Wednesday,” said Wharton. “But he knows too that both Wednesday and Wolves are a long way short of the asking price we want.”
Whichever way the cookie finally crumbles, the Irons chief is expecting the lengthy summer saga to resolve itself one way or another within the next seven days as every club involved starts to gear up for the start of pre-season training.
“I am sure Billy would want his future resolving by then,” Wharton told the Telegraph. “And from talking to him I think he has set his heart on a move this summer.”
And he admitted the Irons' hopes of persuading their star turn to sign the best-ever deal in United's history were fading fast in the face of the numbers others were prepared to talk about.
“We have made Billy a terrific offer to stay, though that is likely to be not as much as he is going to be able to get at one of the bigger clubs,” he admitted.
Even if the Keogh-factor were to prove decisive, the presumption has always been that the Canaries could have at least two more options up their sleeve with Freddy Eastwood determined to make his exit from Southend United and City old-boy Jamie Cureton waving is transfer request in the air at Colchester United.
On that basis – and the whole striker style one – it wouldn't be too much of a surprise to find Grant keeping half an interested eye on events at St Mary's where Southampton have yet to finally nail down Marek Saganowski's full-time move to the South Coast from Troyes.
The French club announced a couple of weeks ago that the Saints had exercised their option to purchase the Polish striker at the pre-agreed fee of ?680,000 – with everyone presuming that was that.
However, it would now appear that Southampton have yet to agree to the player's personal terms; should that stumbling block not be overcome then Troyes could, in theory, throw the player back on the open market sparking another Championship bun-fight for the 28-year-old's services – this time with Burnley and Leicester City leading the fight. And all with no pre-agreed price.
Troyes could, therefore, look to double their money on the Pole's end-of-season exploits if freed from their original commitment to Saints.
New Foxes owner Milan Mandaric declared his interest in the Leicester Mercury yesterday. “I'm lying in wait there. Saganowski is a player I like. Watch this space, that is all I can say.”
Up at Turf Moor, Steve Cotterill – boosted by recent boardroom promises of financial support – showed his hand, too. “There has been contact, but Southampton have first option to buy him,” said the Clarets' boss.
Saganowski's agent – Jaroslaw Kolakowski – was doing little to dampen such speculation as he turned the screw on Southampton.
“There are a number of clubs interested in Marek,” he said. “He wants to go to a good club. Southampton have been his first choice as he enjoyed his time there. But, if talks take too long with Southampton, he could move on.”
Having smashed home ten goals in his 13 Championship outings for the Saints, Saganowski looks to have all the predatory goal instincts Grant might be looking for.
He is, of course, very well aware of the player – as he revealed in the run-up to City's final home game of the season against Southampton which Saganowski actually missed through a groin injury.
“When Earnie had got injured, a big friend of mine had said to me: 'Have you seen the boy Saganowski?' And I said: 'I have, but only on tape…'” said Grant at the time.
“And he said: 'Well, do you want to take a chance?'
“And I said: 'Well, I've not seen him in person…' But he had marked my card on him. And I'd never taken up the gamble because I wasn't here long enough. And he'd seen him play in Poland and then he'd gone to France.
“And sure as fate, every time he phones me he says: 'See, Saganowski's scored again…'”
Whether that opportunity now knocks again is the intriguing point. Back on the South Coast and the feeling remains that the Pole will – eventually – arrive at St Mary's. But clearly both Messrs Mandaric and Cotterill are hoping to throw a spanner in George's best-laid plans. Whether Grant might follow suit could be up for Master Sharp to decide.