Norwich City's pursuit of Luton Town winger David Bell took an encouraging twist today as Coventry City tabled their one and only bid for the in-demand 24-year-old.
And promptly saw it rejected by the consortium trying to take-over the cash-strapped Hatters.
And that, according to Sky Blues chairman Ray Ranson, was that.
“We have made one offer which we think is fair and that's it. That is our final offer,” the Ricoh chief told the Coventry Evening Telegraph.
Among the 101 other names being connected to the Norfolk club as Canary boss Glenn Roeder begins his summer rebuilding plans, the interest in Bell would appear to have more 'legs' than most.
He fits the bill in terms of Roeder's earlier comments of targetting at least two players that can play in at least two roles – left and right wing in Bell's case – while there is another intriguing aspect to the whole Bell saga. His deadline loan-day switch to the Foxes was only ratified the following morning after a mix-up in paperwork between Luton, Leicester City and the Football League. It almost didn't happen.
Which would tally with Roeder's remarks at a Press conference that morning – Friday, March 28. “I'm told that he went somewhere else at one minute to five – which has really peeved me off,” said the City boss, with a Bolton-bound Grzegorz Rasiak likewise fitting the bill. Albeit without the reports of the paperwork confusion.
“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…”
Meanwhile Stephen Browne, director of the LTFC2020 consortium bidding to haul Luton back from the financial brink, has already publically put Norwich's name in the frame.
And, indeed, a time-frame – “this week”, according to his statement to the Luton News.
“Norwich did express an interest and we gave them the guideline of what we are looking for and they said they would come back this week,” Browne told the local newspaper.
Though both Leeds United and newly-promoted Nottingham Forest have been linked to the Hatters winger, the race for his signature appeared initally to be a three-horse race with Leicester City also expressing an interest.
Bell had, after all, spent the back end of the season on loan at the Walkers Stadium as Luton – in common with Southampton – desperately dumped everyone on a higher wage over-board. So just as Skacel headed to Hertha Berlin and Rasiak, famously, went to Bolton, so Luton off-loaded their highest-earner off on the Foxes.
But with Leicester plumbing the depths of League One for the first time in their history, so their attraction has waned as far as Bell is concerned. The fact that the manager that took him to The Walkers' – Ian Holloway – has now felt the full wrath of owner Milan Mandaric all but kills that deal stone dead.
At 24, the former Republic of Ireland Under-19 and Under-21 prospect clearly feels that the time is now ripe for him to step up another rung on the league ladder and having tested the Championship waters in his short spell at Leicester, so a switch to either a Coventry or a Norwich would appeal.
Certainly that was the impression that the luckless Holloway was left with as he discussed the loan switch with an ambitious Bell last season. “The good thing is that he has come from a club lower than us and is, if you like, on his way up,” Holloway told the Leicester Mercury at the time, a remark now weighing heavy with irony as the two parties prepare to pass eachother in opposite directions.
“Some others have come to us in the opposite direction,” added the now ex-Leicester boss. “No offence to them, but this lad is looking onwards and upwards with great ambition.”
Which, equally, may prove to be Leeds United's un-doing following their play-off final defeat to Doncaster Rovers; that Bell will not wish to stand still and play another season in the third tier of the English game.
“Leicester we obviously knew about, but that was more dependent on them staying up,” confirmed Browne, as he ran through the options now on the table.
“They [Leicester] haven't been in touch since (their relegation) because they need to look at what they need to do.Coventry have made a written bid, but not enough, and they've gone away to come back again.
“Coventry have said they are seriously interested in Bell. They are looking to re-bid. If it comes in and it's something sensible we will tell David.”
With Ranson now appearing to rule out a re-bid, that ought to leave the path clear for the Canaries to firm up their interest. That said, it will be in the interest of both the club and the player and his agent if they can rustle up interest from elsewhere and not allow Norwich a clear run at one of their early summer targets.
“There are a couple that are trying their hands and we've had enquiries from different clubs. There have been several other clubs that have phoned up but none that have put pen to paper,” added Browne.
In what is already shaping up to be a frantic summer for the Canaries, Roeder now has a complete physio department to replace after Neal Reynolds earned himself his own dream move into the top flight with an offer from Premiership giants Arsenal to become their No2 phsyio at The Emirates where he will work alongside England's Gary Lewin.
It clearly is the kind of offer that doesn't come along every day and whilst assistant physios Rod Dyer and Peter Shaw may have found themselves an unfortunate part of Roeder's restructuring plans at Colney this summer, Reynolds' move is simply a case of promotion for the one-time Oxforld United physio.
“Neal is an excellent physio and we would have liked to have retained his services,” Roeder told the club's official website this morning as the Canaries growing relationship with the North London club took an unexpected turn. “However, this is a good opportunity for him and we wish him all the best.”
Canary chief executive Neil Doncaster added his best wishes as he now finds himself with another key staff vacancy to fill before the summer is out.
“Neal's ability and reputation in the game has earned him this excellent opportunity at Arsenal and we would not want to stand in his way. Every one at the club would like to thank Neal for his hard work for the Canaries,” said Doncaster.