The Daily Mail were tonight busily insisting that long-time Canary strike target Shola Ameobi was “on the verge” of completing a ?3.5 million switch from Newcastle United to Norwich.
In a short, two paragraph report launched on the paper's website tonight, the Mail claimed that the long running transfer saga could, finally, be drawing to a close – that a man who, in Glenn Roeder's words, would “blitz” the Championship was on his way to Norfolk.
“Norwich are on the verge of signing Newcastle forward Shola Ameobi in a deal that could ultimately be worth ?3.5million,” the Mail claimed.
“The former England U21 striker has knocked back moves to Ipswich and Stoke this summer but is keen to link up with his former St James' Park manager Glenn Roeder, who is believed to have persuaded his board to find the finance for the deal.”
Given that the City chief has been on the hunt for the 26-year-old's signature since virtually the first moment he stepped through the doors at Carrow Road, tonight's 'news' will be greeted with a degree of caution from all concerned.
Throughout the whole, long and all-too often tortuous saga, rumour and counter-rumour have been rife – some insisting that Ameobi will simply not drop out of the Premiership for any price or for anyone; others claiming that Norwich were the only club in the Championship that he would drop out of the Premiership for.
His latest suitors were, of course, Ipswich Town who made a reported ?3.5 million bid for the out-of-favour United striker last week. According to reports in the North-East that bid was accepted by a St James' board desperate to get Ameobi on his way; according to subsequent reports, Ameobi snubbed Town's offer as he hung out for Premiership football.
Not for the first time, Town boss Jim Magilton refused to wait and moved on to pastures new – today signing Northern Ireland international defender Gareth McAuley for ?1.1 million from relegated Leicester City.
In fairness, Town never confirmed that they had made an official bid for Ameobi; nor did they deny it, however. A 'No comment…' was the best they could muster.
Middlesbrough and Tony Mowbray's West Bromwich Albion have also been mentioned as possible Premiership destinations of late, but if both clubs decided to look elsewhere for their summer reinforcements then there is a strong possibility that Norwich were left as the only show in town.
In that case, the pressure would have mounted on United's executive director (football) Dennis Wise to get a deal done and get Ameobi away before the start of pre-season.
And with the club's millionaire owner Mike Ashley turning the screw financially this summer – to the extent of demanding that his over-paid and under-achieving players buy their own club suits next season – so team boss Kevin Keegan may well have kept the pressure on Wise to deal in the hope that he could to start to splash a little of the Ameobi cash.
United have recently been linked to a ?10 million bid for St Etienne's 22-year-old striker Bafetimbi Gomis – merely knocking Ameobi ever further down the pecking order. The fact that France have now crashed out of Euro2008 will, equally, mean that Gomis is now ready to listen to offers.
Just this week the Daily Telegraph ran a piece confirming Ashley's determination to hack back at costs – before he thinks about spending big again.
The Telegraph wrote: “Mike wants to make a point,” a club source said last night. “He's fed up at seeing guys on 80k a week doing nothing and laying on the treatment table every week. “Yes, he's trying to cut costs and is looking at every department, but he also wants to take some players down a peg or two. He has a real bee in his bonnet about this.”
“It is estimated the club spend about ?20,000 a season for the players' designer outfits and while that might seem like small change to a man of Ashley's resources, it still represents a serious statement of intent.”
What is interesting about The Mail's story this evening is the price – one that could “ultimately” rise to ?3.5 million.
For that smacks of a face-saving deal for the benefit of the Tyneside public; that within that figure could lie a whole host of bolt-ons that may never see the light of day; equally, it could include a huge promotion bonus should Ameobi's goals fire the Canaries into the Premiership.
Likewise, any ?3.5 million deal could still go through with only, say, ?1 million paid up-front; that was – reportedly – how the failed Town bid was structured. One chunk now, another one later…
Ameobi's signature would, of course, only come with wages to match his transfer fee. With just one year left on his current Magpies deal, if the price were not completely right he could just park himself at St James' for another year and walk away on a free next summer. That prospect will have also crossed Ashley's mind.
Closer to home and – politically – Ameobi's arrival at Carrow Road would certainly do the Carrow Road board many a favour in terms of ending the widespread perception that prudence had won over ambition; with the Turners, Sharon and Andrew, reported to have adopted a far more hands-on approach to the club this summer, it would also strengthen their hand in terms of the longing glances that the messageboard communities have sent Peter Cullum's way of late.
And it always had a certain logic to it – provided the finance was there. Not only would Ameobi be greeted by a manager that brought the very best out of him when they were together at St James, but in City No2 Lee Clark he also has a man who coached him when he was a gangly, 12-year-old playing for Walker Central Boys Club.
Matty Pattison is another big pal; he will, no doubt, have bumped into motivational expert Steve Black on his Tyneside travels too.
Thrust out into the cold at St James of late, should Ameobi be about to step off the plane from Newcastle in the near future, there will be some warm and welcoming faces waiting to greet him in Norfolk.