City were today being linked with a eleventh hour swoop for Northern Ireland starlet Paddy McCourt ? just as everybody else was waiting for him to conclude his switch to Premier League outfit West Brom.
McCourt ? who had a trial spell with the Canaries in 2003 ? is one of the hottest properties in Ireland and after shining for Derry City, has long been tipped to showcase his talents in England.
On Saturday, it was reported that the winger was on the verge of a move to the Black Country with the Derry website issuing this statement: “The club would like to announce that we have now reached agreement with West Brom, in relation to the transfer of Patrick Mc Court.
“West Brom have been given permission to speak with the player to discuss personal terms and carry out a medical, which is expected to take place early next week.
“Providing no issues arise out of the medical and personal terms are agreed then the transfer will proceed immediately.”
However, City are believed to be making a last gasp bid for his services and are prepared to match the reported ?150,000 fee, with the promise of regular first-team football possibly enough to persuade McCourt that a switch to Norfolk is the next logical step from the League of Ireland.
McCourt has been quoted as saying that the prospect of a leap into the Premier League ? undoubtedly the world's most powerful domestic competition ? was daunting. He may yet feel that a chance to shine at Championship level is the more sensible option.
“I'm looking forward to it as every player wants to test themselves at the highest level,” McCourt recently told the Londonderry Sentinel.
“I can't wait for pre-season training to start and I'm confident I can make an impression in the Premiership.
“Many wouldn't argue that the Premier League is the best in the world. And I'm looking forward to it very much. But I'd be lying if I said it wasn't a bit daunting.”
Described as 'unbelievably brilliant, or frustratingly under-achieving' by supporters of Rochdale ? where he plyed his trade between 2001-2005 after arriving on these shores from Foyle Harps in his homeland – he is usually found patrolling the flanks and his talent doesn't seem to be in question.
Could he be the one to step into Darren Huckerby's shoes? Derry boss Stephen Kenny certainly thinks he's got what it takes to go a long, long way.
“It's a fabulous opportunity for a player like Paddy to get a chance in the Premier League,” said Kenny ? assuming, like most, that McCourt was Hawthorns-bound.
“He will have to work hard but to get the chance to go there is a great start for him. Paddy's contract was up in November and he decided that he wouldn't be signing a new one and once West Brom's interest became clear we had to be realistic and get the best possible deal for him.
“It could be a good move for him. His rhythm, his technique and the way he plays is much more South American in style than European.
“In Ireland and in England people play at the one tempo, but I think Paddy is different. Technically he is as good as anybody and he has a very sharp brain. He has a great footballing intellect.”
Clearly a player who will excite fans, McCourt could prove to be the fans' favourite that Canary supporters have been craving since the departure of talisman Huckerby.
At 24, whether McCourt is the finished article is unlikely, but in a league which is often described as 'tough' and 'physical', there is surely a place for an exciting flair player.
And, if Roeder has his sights set on the man who already has one full Northern Ireland cap to his name, then he will be hoping some silky samba skills can light up Carrow Road in the coming campaign.
According to his Derry chief, McCourt is one of those players that every manager wants to work with.
“When I was given the opportunity to manage Derry City at the start of the season, despite an offer to remain in Scotland and indeed manage elsewhere in the Eircom League, one of the main attractions for me was returning to the group of young players which I had left,” former Dunfermline boss Kenny told the Express and Star recently.
“In fact, at the time we played Gothenburg and Gretna in the UEFA Cup, my midfield five were all aged 20 or 21. I knew those players would get better as they got older.
“Paddy McCourt was in that group and, while he may have been injured for both the games in Sweden and in Scotland, I was fully aware that he was probably the one with the exceptional talent.
“Without a doubt, he was the most creative player we had in the squad. That's a great thing for him personally and a huge thing for the city.
“On the park he is so different, he boasts an almost South American style as he plays at a different tempo, glides past opposing players and is very artistic.
“I suppose there was always an inevitability about him leaving and, now that a Premiership club has come in for him, I have to be realistic.
“I accept that the move to West Brom presents him with a great opportunity and I think everyone in Derry will hope he does well there.”
But, with City seemingly stepping in at the last hour, his move to the Baggies is now in doubt. It will be intriguing to see if Roeder's powers of persuasion can convince McCourt that his future lies in Norfolk.
And the fact that his former Northern Ireland Under-21 team-mate Sammy Clingan has arrived through the Colney doors this week may help City's cause even further.
Definitely a case of 'watch this space'?
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