City's new 'head of player recruitment' Bryan Gunn stepped out of the scouting shadows today and publicly confirmed that the Canaries were keen on out-of-contract Aberdeen midfielder Barry Nicholson.
The 29-year-old has long been linked with a switch to Preston North End – reports helped by the fact that his agent, Kenny Moyes, is the brother of ex-Lilywhites boss, David.
That and the fact that Preston are now managed by Alan Irvine – someone who knows the Scottish Premier League scene inside out and will be well aware of Nicholson's performances this season.
Irvine is, however, not the only one with strong connections into Pittodrie. A certain former Dons' keeper has also been keeping tabs on Aberdeen's newly-crowned player of the season from his Colney base.
“Barry is one of the players who has been recommended to us and is on our list of targets,” Gunn told the Aberdeen Evening Express today.
“We have made inquiries about him, but haven't taken things further than that just yet.”
The fact that Nicholson has opted not to sign a new Dons deal and instead look to chance his arm south of the border has long alerted a clutch of Championship clubs, newly-promoted Nottingham Forest among them. League One 'giants' Leeds United and Leicester City have also found their names linked to the Dons favourite. The fact that he comes to the negotiating table a free agent always helps.
“Barry is a free agent and we are interested but our manager, Glenn Roeder, is on holiday right now so we won't be taking things further until he gets back,” added Gunn.
“He has other clubs in England chasing him while Aberdeen are also keen for him to sign another contract with them, but he remains a target. We watched a lot of games on both sides of the border and travelled up to Scotland to see Barry in action.”
Nicholson's last game for the Dons was the 2-0 defeat of Rangers that confirmed Celtic as SPL Champions. For the ex-Gers youth star, it was a bitter-sweet victory as he bid farewell to the Aberdeen faithful his mind long-set on testing himself on a Championship stage.
“It was a hard decision, but I wanted to try something different,” Nicholson told the Daily Record straight after the Rangers clash.
“I'll be 30 in the summer and I thought if I signed here [Aberdeen] again I might miss my chance,” he told the paper. “There are a few clubs interested and hopefully once the play-offs are finished I'll get something sorted.”
The majority of Nicholson's SPL career has been with Dunfermline for whom he made 208 appearances in a five-year career, before following boss Jimmy Calderwood to Aberdeen in 2005 in a ?250,000 deal. It is with Calderwood's blessing that his long-time charge looks south.
“I'll miss a lot of people, especially all the boys in the dressing room,” Nicholson told the Record last month.
“The fans have been brilliant and I've got to thank the gaffer. When I made the decision to leave he could have left me out but he's stuck by me and I gave him 100 per cent in every game. I think the fans realised that.”
Hence his 'Player of the Season' award; hence the continuing hope that Nicholson may have a late change of heart and stay at Pittodrie – a prospect that Calderwood dismissed in the Evening Express tonight after local radio reports suggested that the winger might be tempted to stay.
“It would be great if that were true, but sadly it isn't,” said Calderwood. “As far as I know Barry is going to England.
“If he had decided to do otherwise I'm sure I would have been the first one he contacted.”
Nicholson's switch to Norfolk could rest on more than just Roeder's whereabouts. The Canaries have already been strongly linked to both Luton wide-man David Bell and Blackpool's mercurial Wes Hoolahan, who like Nicholson weighs in at just five-foot seven inches tall.
And while the Canaries are certainly in need of reinforcement with bodies being distinctly thin on the ground this summer, it would be a moot point whether Roeder will actually want all three players – Nicholson, Hoolahan and Bell – on the books come August. Particularly if he has at least one Premiership loan signing up his sleeve and ear-marked for a wide role.
Again, having been told by Luton to double their money for the want-away Bell, the fact that Nicholson comes on a free would be of interest.
For now, however, all bets are off as the Canaries and their new head of player recruitment wait on Roeder's return to the transfer fray.