The lure of Premiership football – and the small matter of, in every likelihood, doubling his weekly wage packet – today proved too hard to resist for Canary striker Robert Earnshaw as he joined newly-promoted Derby County for ?3.5 million.
That figure corresponded exactly to his get-out clause – a coincidence that did little to improve Peter Grant's mood. “Disappointing and somewhat ironic,” was the manager's verdict on City's official site this afternoon.
The news was broken at just before three-thirty this afternoon with the 26-year-old striker understood to have been in the Midlands overnight to discuss the personal terms of his three-year deal and complete a medical.
“We are delighted to have a new striker on board with a fantastic track record in terms of scoring goals at every level he played,” Rams boss Billy Davies, told the club's official website this afternoon.
“Robert is a fantastic addition to my squad and I'm sure the fans will be excited that we have a new fox in the box for the new season.”
How 'excited' City fans will be after chasing Billy Sharp up and down dale for the last two weeks is a moot point now that the 21-year-old has gone home to Sheffield United. Grant was certainly unamused.
“I'm very disappointed to be losing Robert,” was Grant's verdict on www.canaries.co.uk. “We are trying to do what we can to maintain a promotion challenge and Robert was very much part of that.
“All players want to be in the Premier League and I understand Robert's reasons to want to go to Derby.”
Speculation had been rife all week that Charlton – newly-armed with ?16.5 million worth of Darren Bent money – would swoop for the Welsh international striker.
By all accounts, they were there at the end – just not the 'dead certs' that The Times this morning predicted as Davies made his first big swoop of the summer.
For in the end it was the chance to strut his stuff again among the big boys, not to mention the likely wage packet that will accompany his three-year switch to Pride Park, that left Grant a 20-plus goalscorer light going into the new Championship campaign.
You suspect he feared the worst all summer-long – thus the 'pre-emptive' strike to try and bag a Luke Varney or a Billy Sharp before his No1 strike asset packed his bags for Premiership pastures new.
Little wonder that all eyes were now fixed on the prospect of luring either old-boy Jamie Cureton out of Colchester United. Or else slapping the Earnie cash onto Southend United's table for Freddy Eastwood.
Given that Plan A this summer was Varney, Plan B Sharp, the Canaries will now come under immense – and immediate – pressure to deliver on either Plan C (Cureton) or Plan E (Eastwood). Or, indeed, both.
Only yesterday Derby legend Dave MacKay called on The Rams to boost their firepower if they had any real intent of staying in the top flight for more than the traditional season.
“The Premier League is going to be very difficult,” MacKay told the Derby Evening Telegraph, as Davies answered that very call with today's swoop for Earnshaw.
“One of the problems for Derby is that they don't score enough goals. If you can score goals it makes things so much easier, but last season there were too many games when Derby won by only the odd goal.
“If they can get more goals, then that will give them a great chance of winning matches,” added MacKay.
Earnshaw certainly scores goals by the hatful and for all his troubles and strifes at The Hawthorns under Bryan Robson, he still scored goals in the top flight.
Nor is his 27 goals in 45 City appearances to be sniffed at – in every likelihood that would have been far nearer the 35 in 60-odd mark but for that serious groin tear last January that ruled him out for three, crucial months.
His final transfer fee – offering no more than a ?500,000 profit on the figure that then manager Nigel Worthington paid for his services 18 months ago – merely makes the pill even harder to swallow, particularly if Charlton were in the mood for an auction.
But that's the inherent danger of inserting the kind of buy-out clause in his Carrow Road contract that both Michael Owen and Obafemi Martins enjoy at Newcastle United – a ?9 million 'get-out' clause in Owen's case, ?13 million in Martins'.
Such clauses are why such players agree to go to such clubs in the first place – that if they shine, then there will be a ready-made queue of clubs knocking on their door at such an asking price. Then it is up to the player and his agent to decide which club offers the biggest, fattest pay-day for both of them.
Hence reports today that Manchester United were offering a mere ?4 million plus Alan Smith for the chance to pair Owen up front with Wayne Rooney next season.
Back down the football food chain, and such a clause in Earnshaw's contract helps explain why he agreed to the switch to Norfolk; why Worthington managed to get such a relatively high-profile striker into the building in the first place.
He was a hired gun; part of his 'fee' was the requirement to have such a get-out clause inserted in his contract. That's the nature of this business; that's the kind of clause a proven goal-scorer can command if you're neither willing nor able to cross his palm with bag upon bag of silver.
And that's why players witha drop of the club's blood in their veins – be it red and white in Sharp's case or yellow and green in Cureton's – are gold dust.