If the Canaries feared that the chase for Martin Paterson's signature might prove as fruitless as that for Billy Sharp last summer, then those fears may be coming true this morning as Iron chairman Steve Wharton claimed his top-scorer was not for sale “at any price”.
City boss Glenn Roeder did little to hide his admiration for the 11-goal striker after last night's 1-0 win at Southampton – albeit cloaked with the proviso that he did not like to talk about other club's players.
Certainly, on or off the record, he would not confirm whether the Canaries had formally lodged an ?850,000 bid for the 20-year-old former Stoke trainee.
This morning and Wharton insisted that he had merely fended off an 'enquiry'; that no formal bid had ever been made.
“I have had a very brief telephone conversation with someone from Norwich,” Wharton told the Scunthorpe Evening Telegraph today.
“They inquired if Martin was available – and I said not at any price. When the response came that every player had his price, I told them that ?5-million would not be enough for them to take Martin. That was the end of the conversation and there was no offer made.”
The whole Billy Sharp saga similarly took innumerable twists and turns over the course of the summer. And it was only after successive day trips to various Championship clubs that the Iron striker returned to his first love, Sheffield United.
Though Paterson signed a two-year deal when he made his tribunal-set switch from the Potters last summer, the feeling remains that the player himself might leap at the chance to switch from Glanford Park to Norfolk. Should they ever be granted permission to talk to the player, money will talk there.
The problem, of course, is bringing Mr Wharton to the table in the next 36 hours. And having given such a line to his local evening newspaper, to be seen selling the player the next day will require a lot of explaining to the locals.
Iron boss Nigel Adkins told the paper that interest in his hard-working marksman had come as no surprise.
“Before the transfer window opened at the beginning of January, we sat Martin down and told him his name would be linked with various clubs,” Adkins told the Telegraph.
“That is the nature of how things are at the moment. But we also told him that he was a very important player to us and that he would be going nowhere. Martin is quite happy with that situation. What I am surprised about is that it has taken so long for his name to be linked with someone.”
The fact that Paterson's goals are seen as United's best hope of avoiding a swift return to League One this summer may also explain the chairman's bellicose response to Norwich's enquiry.
It may well be a case that should the worse still befall the Iron, then the Canaries and others will find themselves back knocking on Wharton's door in the summer – at which point the player himself might be anxious to return to a Championship stage.
Roeder is well aware that he is down to the very bare bones after a busy window bundling people out of the door; bringing people in through that same door is the next challenge.
A couple of injuries and City would be back down to the kids; likewise, Ched Evans' goals could soon disappear if Manchester City boss Sven Goran Eriksson decides not to grant Roeder's wish of a window-to-window deal for the free-scoring 19-year-old.
“We've got a tiny squad now – now that I've sold two and moved on four,” said Roeder, after gaining his first glimpse of possible mid-table safety via last night's 1-0 win at St Mary's. “So we're six down and are probably operating on 12, 13 players really.
“But there's no-one guaranteed a place and, hopefully, the couple of signings that we'll announce on Thursday morning will, hopefully, create more competition for places.
“And if I can get one or two more, then it's going to be even better.”
Whether those “one or two more” now includes Mr Paterson is open to some debate. It could be a long 36 hours if the Iron are busily pulling up the drawbridge as we speak…