The Sunderland Echo this morning threw a real surprise spanner into the works – suggesting that 36-year-old veteran striker Andy Cole was “in talks” with Norwich City.
Cole was released by the Black Cats this summer after spending the back end of last season on loan at Burnley.
Only signed on a one-year deal by his ex-Old Trafford pal Roy Keane, Cole has already reportedly turned down a return to Turf Moor next season and, indeed, was openly talking about hanging up his boots altogether in February as a long and distinguished playing career looked to be coming to a close.
Six goals from just 13 appearances for the Clarets – including a hat-trick in the 4-2 away win at QPR in the middle of February – may, however, have rekindled Cole's interest in the game. He was on the scoresheet again on the final day of the season as Burnley – still quoted as being interested in Darel Russell's services – finished with a 3-3 draw at home to FA Cup finalists Cardiff.
There is another reason why Cole might be tempted out of retirement and into the 'veteran striker' berth vacated by Dion Dublin this summer – Lee Clark.
City's assistant boss was a Newcastle United team-mate of Cole when 'Goal King Cole' was at the peak of his Premiership powers – grabbing 55 goals in just 70 league appearances for Kevin Keegan's Magpies before that ?6 million switch to Manchester United in January, 1995.
The two were also together on the banks of the Thames when Cole played alongside Clark for Fulham in the 2004-2005 season – a season in which the predatory Cole scored 12 goals from his 31 Premiership appearances.
Roeder's No2 ought, therefore, to know whether Cole – who celebrates his 37th birthday in October – has both the heart and the legs for another season-long round of Championship football.
The Daily Mirror – running the same 'Cole in Norwich talks…' story – suggested the stumbling block could be the traditional distance one; that Norwich would be just too far away from Cole's North-West base.
Certainly Roeder wasn't shying away from the possibility of recruiting someone of Dublin's ilk again this summer. For with the 39-year-old now bound for a Sky Sports sofa and 32-year-old Darren Huckerby likewise seeking new employment outside Norfolk, Roeder's threadbare squad is distinctly short on anyone with genuine top flight experience.
Gary Doherty would be the next player on the list with a few Premiership appearance 'medals' on the table, but he is out of contract and yet to resign; ex-club skipper Adam Drury has that one season in the Premiership with Norwich to his name. After that, however, and within that Colney dressing room, genuine top flight experience is next to non-existent.
Quizzed earlier this summer as to whether he would be tempted to recruit someone of Dublin's veteran ilk and Roeder appeared to be willing to play ball.
“As long as they're good enough, I don't care how old they are,” said the City chief, likely to be inundated with teenage talents if he pursues his Premiership loan policy again. At the other end of the age spectrum and Cole might, just, add that age and experience balance.
“I'm not saying we definitely need someone like that, but I wouldn't be averse to it either,” added Roeder, asked whether he would be looking for another Dion.
“I wouldn't be against it – the role model type professional. Because Dion had a great influence on the players here and if I could find one in a position that we wanted – and in an area of the field where I thought he could be most beneficial – I would certainly consider it.”
Given that Norwich's strike options currently revolve around Jamie Cureton and – in theory – Chrissy Martin, the City boss clearly has a huge gap in his armoury up front. So that bit 'fits' with the Cole link.
The fact that Cole is a free agent this summer is another factor to bear in mind; the kids don't come cheap – even those arriving on a short-term basis will arrive with a loan fee attached. And given the demand that is likely to follow a Ched Evans around this summer, that loan fee will be a considerable sum.
“Everyone wants to target young players – and you pay a premium for that,” admitted Roeder. “You buy what's called potential.
“And potential always costs more than what the actual ability of the player is at that particular time. And what you're hoping is is – if you can afford potential – that the potential is realised. And then goes on to be better. In other words, increase their value.
“But sometimes you buy young players and they don't even reach their potential and you end up wasting your money.”
Cole – fitness issues aside – would be a known quantity to someone of Clark's ilk. And whilst Robbie Fowler might have lived up to everyone's expectations in his switch to Cardiff City last summer, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink didn't let too many people down.
It will be a character question. And while his switch to the Black Cats might not have worked out as well as everyone hoped – Cole picked up a three-month injury in the midst of his 12-month spell at the Stadium Of Light – Keane did not shy away from adding him to his Premiership plans last summer. With Dwight Yorke already in the building, if it was an old boys act – it worked. Sunderland are still in the Premiership; they made it.
Cole – whose Black Cats contract does not officially end until the end of this month – was one of four players released by Keane last month, the others being Stanislav Varga, Stephen Wright and Ian Harte, to whom Roeder has already been linked.
Elsewhere and Norwich's confirmed interest in Luton winger David Bell remains subject to the Canaries upping their offer, while Blackpool's Wes Hoolahan is persistently rumoured to be either in the city or about to sign.
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