City's lengthy pursuit of Blues centre-half Martin 'Tiny' Taylor may have edged another tiny inch forward tonight after Birmingham boss Alex McLeish emerged from their 1-0 home defeat by Chelsea to reveal that fresh from his ?6 million capture of Scottish international striker James McFadden from Everton, he was now turning his attention to the back end of the team.
To add further fuel to the transfer fire, Taylor was notable by his absence from today's Blues squad. Last week, of course, he was sat on the bench for the 1-1 draw at Arsenal.
“We are looking at people and we hope to try and bring a couple in in the next couple of weeks,” McLeish was quoted as saying on SkySports. “My policy is to say nothing until a deal is done, but I am trying to get a couple in. We have strengthened the forward line, but we still need players in midfield and the centre of defence.”
Speaking after this afternoon's thrilling, albeit wholly frustrating 0-0 draw with Leicester City, Norwich boss Glenn Roeder suggested that the Taylor hunt was still on; unlike yesterday's quest for a Premiership loan player which looked to be hanging by a thread tonight after the Canary manager gave the mystery player a spot of forthright career advice after hearing that a potential loan switch to Norfolk held little appeal.
Not when he could put his feet up and park his butt on a sofa every weekend.
Quizzed as to whether he was hopeful that Monday might bring a little more success transfer-wise – even if one of Friday's twin-pronged assault appeared to be going AWOL – the Canary boss insisted that he started every day in a hopeful mood.
“I'm always positive that we will get a player in that day,” said Roeder. “You're on the telephone, trying to cajole people to understand that we've already offered too much for your player and you should be letting us have him. But she doesn't seem to see that at the moment…'
“He, sorry, he…” laughed Roeder, as everyone immediately assumed that he had only one person in mind – Blues chief executive Karren Brady.
He potentially dropped another big clue re his reluctant loan target; revealing that the player in question was “a utility player”. Couple that to Friday's revelation that he was a Premiership player; one that had been told he had little or no future at his current club; that his manager would be listening to offers for him in this transfer window – be it of the loan or permanent variety.
After that it was a chance to let the guessing games commence; to read between the lines and see whose profile possibly fitted.
“We had permission from a club to talk to a player to come in on loan until the end of the season,” repeated Roeder tonight. “He's not going to get a game at his club where he is now – the manager has told him that very clearly, but he still prefers to train Monday to Friday and put his feet up on the sofa Saturday and Sunday. And that's the modern day footballer.”
There was, it seems, one of two home truths said in the course of Friday's conversation. Speaking to the club's official website, Roeder revealed that he had told the player concerned to “sort himself out”.
“Once I knew he wasn't coming, I told him what I thought of him,” were Roeder's subsequent thoughts to the Press. “His manager doesn't want him, so I don't know what he's going to do. He's got about 12 Saturdays with his feet up.”
One who could fit Roeder's admittedly vague description is Sunderland's Greg Halford – formerly, of course, of Layer Road fame. The one-time Colchester youth product is one of a clutch of players that Roy Keane is looking to ease out – another, the full-back Stephen Wright, is reported to be interesting Hull City.
And likewise, he has been told as much – as Keane revealed to the Sunderland Echo earlier this month.
“There are some players who I would consider allowing to leave the club or go out on loan if it suited all concerned and I've spoken to the players involved,” said Keane, as he effectively handed Halford the Black Spot.
In a seperate interview Keane also revealed that there had been interest in his utility player – Halford has played at right-back, right-midfield, centre midfield and centre-back in his time. All of which is helped by his athletic, six-foot four-inch frame.
For both Charlton and Crystal Palace have been linked to a similar move. Again, bear the role of an agent in mind. It is in his best interest to stall and stall until the clock ticks down to the midnight hour on the 31st. It is then that the price starts to rise – and the agent's 'cut' with it.
Given that Halford has strong family connections back home in Essex, a switch back to East Anglia may well have much appeal. But, maybe, just not quite yet. There's plenty of time to see who else is out there, would be any decent agent's advice.
“Yes, there has been interest in Greg and it's something that we are looking at,” Keane told the Sunderland Echo. “There hasn't been any firm bid yet as things stand, but it is a situation that is on-going.”
Keane's own patience with the player appears to have waned over the winter after expecting big things from his ?2.5 million summer signing – the same big things that, presumeably, Royals boss Steve Coppell expected when he paid a similar sum for Halford in January, 2007.
For whatever reason, Halford played just three games for the Berkshire club; he has played a mere eight for the Black Cats – and all with the unenviable record of being sent off twice. In recent months, first Dean Whitehead and then Nyron Nosworthy have climbed above Halford in the pecking order.
“The lad is still only 22-years-old and he had come from a spell at Reading where he had hardly played for six months and he's had a suspension while he's been here, which doesn't help, so maybe people should give him a bit more breathing space,” Keane told the Echo last autumn.
“Sometimes perhaps people don't give players enough time to settle in,” he added. “I can understand that of course ? Greg has come to a place where the fans have high expectations. They are passionate supporters who demand the best and sometimes they can be forgiving, but that's what you have to expect at a bigger club like Sunderland.”
Clearly the player is in need of some TLC. He was widely regarded as one of the brightest prospects in The Championship before his big-money switch to Reading this time last year. Since then, not much has gone right and a possible switch back to East Anglia may prove just the kick-start his career currently needs after apparently being swamped by the level of expectation at the Stadium Of Light. That and Keane's growing need for points and performances. Today's 2-0 defeat against Spurs kept the pressure on.
The player himself has recognised that he needed to play games as his career started to stall again.
“I need a run of games, six or seven matches in the team, but the manager wants performances straight away and I haven't really been giving them,” he told the Sunderland Echo just last week.
“I'm out of the team for that reason and that reason alone. I've just got to show the manager what I can do in training and get back in the team,” he added, suggesting that much of the fault lay in his own mind. That his confidence was ebbing away.
“I don't go out to play badly on purpose, but I am my own worst critic,” said Halford, whose last Premiership appearance came on December 8 and the 2-0 defeat against Chelsea – his 23rd birthday. Interestingly, in the same interview he admitted that he was in no real hurry to do anything much – or, at least, not until the summer. The evidence that Halford might be the one was mounting.
“I don't mind sitting around and waiting for a little bit and seeing what happens. But it is in my thoughts that if come next season I'm not getting the games, I will go out on loan somewhere,” said Halford.
Should he indeed be 'the one', then you wouldn't want to be in his shoes as heads back into training on Monday and tells Roy Keane that if that's OK, gaffer, I'd rather put my feet up for a few months… don't mind, do you? That particular prospect may yet prompt a re-think.
For as the manager that launched the original 'Pampered footballer…' outburst this summer – a theme that Roeder himself then warmed to – Keane's face will be a picture when Halford walks back through his door.
Leave a Reply