Gary Doherty's Norfolk future was firmly in doubt this evening as reports emerged that the one-time Republic of Ireland international might be following Darren Huckerby Stateside.
The Mercury News, the local newspaper for Frank Yallop's San Jose Earthquake outfit in sunny California, today had the MLS outfit in early talks with the out-of-contract centre-half.
“The Earthquakes are talking to Norwich City defender Gary Doherty about a possible move to San Jose,” the paper reported.
“General Manager John Doyle said today the talks are in the early stages; the team has been looking at a number of players to try to bolster its lineup and preliminary talks with players often don't lead to a signing.
“Doherty, who is out of contract with Norwich, is said to be interested in a move to Major League Soccer like teammate Darren Huckerby. The Quakes also are interested in Huckerby but Toronto FC has discovery rights for the Norwich star.”
Speaking exclusively to MyFootballWriter earlier this summer, ex-Town favourite Yallop confirmed that Huckerby was very much on the Quake wanted list – but their quest to bring the 32-year-old to California was hampered by the fact that Toronto had first call on the long-time City favourite.
However, the suggestion that the Canaries could be about to lose two of their senior players to the MLS is likely to keep the City faithful firmly on edge – certainly until the moment that Canary boss Glenn Roeder starts to bring new faces through the door at Colney.
The Internet rumour mill was tonight insisting that Blackpool's mercurial winger Wes Hoolahan was bound for Carrow Road as the Norfolk club make full use of a reported ?250,000 'get-out' clause in the player's contract.
Certainly his potential arrival will start to sweeten the bitter pill of Huckerby's exit; news of Doherty's potential exit on a free will, you suspect, split opinion. But with Dion Dublin making himself comfortable in a Sky Sports chair, should Doherty indeed be California-bound the Canaries would have just one senior centre-half on their books – Jason Shackell.
Speaking at the end of the season Roeder suggested that talks with his two out-of-contract players – Doherty and skipper Mark Fotheringham – were heading in a positive direction. Two weeks later and Fotheringham duly signed a new, one-year deal; Doherty has, however, proved rather harder to get.
“We're working on that,” was Roeder's response when quizzed as to the progress of the pair's contract talks.
“We have no reason to be thinking negatively,” he added. “You'll have to wait; it's a matter of time. But we're very positive that the players that we want to re-sign, will sign.”
Interestingly, 'The Doc' is not one of those 'married with kids…' types that ex-City boss Bruce Rioch used to insist were the best buys for a club of Norwich's ilk. He could have the time of his life in California – particularly if the Quake can prise Huckerby out of Toronto's clutches.
With ex-Newcastle winger Lauren Robert already in place in Canada, it would be a brave manager that threw both Robert and Huckerby into battle in the same side. Hence the feeling that the Canary hero may fancy his chances south of the border.
But given that Roeder has, on more than one occasion, described Doherty as “a rock” in his defence, the prospect of the 28-year-old shipping out Stateside is one exit he could have done without. But, out of contract and 28-years-old, the player is perfectly entitled to exercise any option he chooses. Rumours of the MLS holding a real appeal have done the rounds for a while now.
All of which merely ensures that the first fresh face to walk through the doors at Colney will be granted a rapturous welcome – if only through sheer relief as Roeder's numbers dwindle. On and off the pitch.
That the Canary boss is a Hoolahan fan has never been in doubt. The 26-year-old Dubliner was the best player on the pitch in the Seasiders' 2-1 win over the Canaries at the start of March and has the kind of quick feet and equally nimble, footballing brain that makes up for his lack of inches height-wise.
He also made his international debut for the Republic of Ireland this week – coming on as a second-half substitute in the Republic's 1-0 win over Columbia at Craven Cottage last night.
Back in Blackpool and the club's chairman has found himself in the same position as Canary chief Neil Doncaster last summer – explaining to supporters why get-out clauses are part and parcel of the modern game. Just as they were for Messrs Earnshaw and Etuhu.
“I won't comment on rumours about what might or might not happen,” Karl Oyston told the Blackpool Gazette yesterday, with the Canaries also linked to Hoolahan's defensive pal, Kaspars Gorkss. At six-foot three, the strapping Latvian is also on a get-out. And if Doherty's heart is indeed set on a move to the Quake, Roeder's need for a Gorkss or two will only deepen.
“When and if there is something to say about players arriving or leaving then we'll discuss it then,” added the Seasiders chief. “There is nothing that's likely to change for the time being.”
Hoolahan is, of course, not the tallest. But again, speaking at the start of the summer Roeder made it clear that he was not heading into a frantic spell of transfer wheeling and dealing with a set height criteria in his head.
“I would say ability criteria,” he said. “If they are six-foot four, they are six-foot four. If they are five-foot eight, they're five-foot eight – you wouldn't want all the same; you'd want a mixture.
“I'm very conscious that the game has gone power and pace, but I wouldn't be against signing a physically small player if he is incredibly talented. Someone who can unlock the doors; create chances. I wouldn't be averse to that at all. And there's plenty of big 'uns out there who can't play.”
For the record, Hoolahan is five-foot seven. But on the evidence of his two Championship performances against Blackpool last season and his FA Cup exploits against the Camaries the season before, Hoolahan can certainly unlock doors.