City boss Glenn Roeder this morning revealed the “mind-boggling” numbers the saw his long-time transfer target Shola Ameobi join promotion-hopefuls Stoke City on-loan until the end of the season.
And beyond, it would seem, with the Canary chief hinting strongly that an eventual ?5 million full-time switch was also part of the package laid at Newcastle United's door by the Potters as they look to bolt what they clearly see as the last piece in their promotion puzzle into place for the final six games of the season – at whatever the financial cost, it would appear.
The fact that City No2 was “on a promise” to be kept informed of any latest developments in Ameobi's transfer movements – a call that never came as Potters chairman Peter Coates reached for his wallet in the last 48 hours – added to a certain sense of disappointment around Colney this morning.
Roeder's mood was, however, tempered by the fact that – in his eyes – every player has a price; the one that Newcastle have just got for a player with barely a competitive start to his name this season was one that made his eyes water. At that level, he'd have walked away. Particularly after speaking to Newcastle's new director of football yesterday with Ameobi already all but Britannia-bound.
“I spoke to Dennis Wise yesterday morning,” said Roeder, on the phone chasing a second loan target right up until yesterday's 5pm deadline.
“And it was too dear. If he's telling me the truth, Stoke have paid an incredible amount of money,” said the City chief. “For a short period of time.”
For all such deals now come with a 'loan fee' attached. And that's before anyone sits down with the player himself – and his agent – to discuss their share of the cake.
Potters boss Tony Pulis admitted yesterday that the chairman had decided that now was the time to risk all on winning that ticket to the Premiership; that one point ahead of the rest of the field – albeit with Hull starting to breathe down their necks – now was the time to play the joker and risk all.
Wise clearly suggested that yesterday's initial loan fee came with summer strings attached – a full-time deal at the ?5 million mark.
“He [Wise] is telling me that it's attached to potentially a ?5 million transfer deal. And I've got to take him for his word,” said Roeder, as the London-based Wise wheels and deals whilst Kevin Keegan keeps his eye on events on the pitch.
“I know Dennis reasonably well and that's what he was telling me. I'm not obliged to say what Stoke's business is with Newcastle, but it's mind-boggling the amount of money he's told me that Stoke have gambled on Shola to get them in the Premiership.
“Because I believe if they don't do it, there's no way that Stoke – as a Championship side – are going to carry through paying ?5 million for a striker that's going to be in the Championship next year.”
The fact that the Birmingham Post recently installed Coates as the 25th richest man in UK football on the back of selling the family's chain of bookies to Corals for ?40 million and a Bet365 empire – the brainchild of his daughter Denise – now conservatively estimated to be worth ?175 million may explain the deep purse that Pulis has at his disposal. Nevertheless, it is still a risk. Particularly given Ameobi's injury record.
“This is only a personal opinion and I know Shola extremely well – I know his character; he's a top man; a fantastic goal-scorer – but he has got a history of injuries,” said Roeder, who managed the one-time England Under-21 striker at St James and saw his development into a first-time player from his vantage point of Newcastle's Academy chief.
“He's had a really nasty hip operation and to be gambling ?5 million – and I don't know the deal exactly – but if that's a guaranteed ?5 million, that's some gamble that Pulis has taken on someone who has seemed to have recovered from major surgery on his hip.
“And it hasn't really yet been tested because he's wasted a year. The two managers that Newcastle have had this year have chosen not to use him. So knowing Shola like I do, he'll be amazingly unfit as well. He takes a bit of getting fit.
“So Stoke have got a short period of time to get the best out of him; out of a Shola Ameobi that will be nowhere near match-fit. And if Dennis is telling the truth, you'd be shocked at how much they're paying.”
There must, equally, have been a slight shock that Ameobi was going anywhere after Clark was told by first Sam Allardyce and then Keegan that he wouldn't be coming out to play this season. “But Lee had an agreement with one of the senior coaches that if he was going to go anywhere, he was going to get a phone call.
“And we never got a phone-call – which disappoints me greatly. Because I don't break promises. But good luck to Stoke. If he gets them in the Premiership, then it'll look a small amount of money. If they don't… wow. Very expensive.”
Ameobi wasn't the only iron in the fire, it seems. “Did we try for someone else? Yes – right up till five o'clock,” said Roeder, who also revealed he made an abortive trip to the North-East on Monday to watch a League One game. “A wasted journey,” he admitted, with Paul Stephenson's old stomping ground of Hartlepool his most likely destination.
As for yesterday's late, late nibble, that too was all a bit murky.
“I'm told that he went somewhere else at one minute to five – which has really peeved me off. There's also a rumour that the deal never went through; that it was off at one minute past five. And I hope that it hasn't. Not that I'm vindictive, but I hope that it hasn't…”
All of which came to overshadow tomorrow's trip to second-placed Bristol City. Gary Doherty was the one slight doubt with a back strain; he was due to train today giving Roeder a fully-fit squad to select from.