The never-ending tale of Shola Ameobi's whereabouts next season took another twist this afternoon as reports in the North-East suggested that the 26-year-old's proposed, ?3.5 million switch to Ipswich Town was now, officially, off.
The reasons, it appeared, were two-fold – that (a) Ameobi himself wanted to wait and see whether or not a Premiership club would come a-knocking for his services and (b) that, in the meantime, Town boss Jim Magilton had tired of being left to wait.
He was off to pursue other irons in the fire. The Portman Road chief has 'previous' on this front – he famously told David Nugent to ?Sod off!? after the out-of-favour Pompey striker dallied over-long over Town's offer of a loan move last season.
Whether Ameobi got the full Nugent treatment is unclear, but with Marcus Evans' summer transfer kitty starting to burn a hole in his back pocket the Town chief appears eager to get on and get some business done. By all accounts, he has two big situations vacant at the heart of his defence and if Ameobi can't make his mind up himself then Magilton will make it up for him…
The fascinating sub-text to all this is where that now leaves Glenn Roeder who was widely considered to be out of the Ameobi race once Town set the bar at ?3.5 million, including an initial ?2 million down-payment.
Right back in it, would be the best guess as everyone now waits to see who makes the next move.
Certainties are few and far between – but one or two aspects of the whole saga are set in stone.
Newcastle want shot of Ameobi.
Only this week, The Times reported that Newcastle owner Mike Ashley was set to take a far more hands-on role at St James' Park – proof of which may come in reports that the players will be asked to buy their own club suits next season as the sports retailing billionaire starts to wade into the culture of excess he sees on Tyneside.
Paying Ameobi to do not a lot next season – particularly when the player will be available on a Bosman free transfer next summer – is not in Ashley's thinking. A messgae that has clearly been passed on down the line to both boss Kevin Keegan and Dennis Wise, United's 'executive director' charged with over-seeing the club's transfer business.
Jailbird Joey Barton was also on the receiving end of Ashley's new broom this week as United went a-seeking a 50% pay cut from the troubled Newcastle midfielder, currently languishing inside Walton Prison on Merseyside – and all with another, messy assault court case just around the corner. Ashley's representatives want Barton to accept a ?30,000-a-week pay cut – over the course of the remaining four years of his St James' Park contract, that amounts to ?6 million.
Barrton's refusal to play ball – as relayed to the outside world by his agent, Willie Mackay – merely heaps the pressure on the Newcastle board to trim the wage bill elsewhere. Cue Ameobi's exit. If they can find a bidder.
With the player having already spurned Stoke City's advances after his fairly wretched end-of-season loan spell at the Britannia Ground did not end with the ?4 million switch to the Potters that most expected and Magilton's patience having now apparently ended, so Ameobi's options appear to be narrowing.
By all accounts, if he is to drop down to the Championship then Norwich is the only club he would consider – safe in the knowledge that with the likes of Roeder, Lee Clark, Matty Pattison and Steve Black already in place, he would be warmly welcomed.
Roeder certainly sees a player that would 'blitz' the Championship in the 6ft 2in powerhouse – just not at ?2 million now and another ?1.5 million in add-ons.
Middlesbrough are the other key players in this unending drama – offering Ameobi both Premiership football and the chance to stay near to his North-East roots.
What is fascinating is the way that Newcastle's strapping England Under-19 striker Andy Carroll could also prove to be a pawn in the Ameobi game.
Carroll is exactly the kind of young, hungry and cheap player that Ashley sees as providing the bed-rock for his new-look Newcastle squad; it would pain him no end to see Carroll walk out of the door to Norwich for ?1 million, whilst Ameobi parked himself on the bench for the next 12 months and waited to walk away on a free next summer.
The more Roeder is linked to a move for Carroll, the more Ashley might be of a mind to drop the asking price for 26-year-old Ameobi and keep the teenage prospect for himself.
Certainly Roeder will be happy to sweat the situation out and see who blinks first. Ameobi – fresh from his summer wedding – will want certainty for himself come July 1. And he certainly knows that he will be the star of the show in Norfolk. And all with his ex-Tyneside pal Pattison there to greet him.
Carroll, by contrast, will be disappearing off on England Under-19 duty for much of July and will not be back at Roeder's disposal until the start of August. Even if Ashley, Keegan and Co were prepared to play ball over a player they might see as being the future of Newcastle football club.
Either way, the Ameobi saga is just one of those that will run and run…