Darren Huckerby's whereabouts next season could be decided in the next seven days after the long-time Canary favourite was reported to be on a whistle-stop tour of the MLS – first stop Toronto, second stop sunny California and the San Jose Earthquake.
According to the San Jose Mercury tonight, the 32-year-old two-time City Player of the Year will visit both clubs over the next few days – though under the MLS' complicated draft system Toronto continue to enjoy first rights on the Barclay hero. Quake, however, remain second in line – and eager to do business.
“If Toronto truly wants to sign him they will be able to sign him,” Quake general manager John Doyle told The Mercury News tonight.
“It's out of my control,” added Doyle, clearly well aware of what Huckerby would bring to the Quake should Toronto's interest wane.
The fact that the Canadian outfit already have ex-Newcastle and Pompey winger Laurent Robert on the books may yet make them think twice about adding Huckerby to the mix. It would be a brave coach who fielded both players from the start.
“He's an attacking, flashy, skillful forward,” Doyle told the Mercury readers. “He's used to playing at a high level day in and day out.”
It was a line that Quake boss Frank Yallop gave to MyFootballWriter earlier this summer as the two MLS clubs looked to take full advantage of Huckerby's vow not to play in English football again lest he return to his beloved Carrow Road in an opposition shirt.
“I must stress, however, that we will only be able to do something if Toronto decide, for whatever reason, not to pursue their interest in signing him or if Darren turns down the chance to go there,” Yallop told MyFootballWriter at the start of May.
“We are next in line and I can't deny I would love to have Darren here,” added the ex-Ipswich Town favourite. “He is a player I have admired for a number of years and I have always liked the way he plays the game.
“Darren is pacy, he goes straight at opponents and usually past them, plus he has a number of tricks and a decent scoring record. He's exciting, a potential match-winner and the fans over here would love his style of play.”
Yallop had clearly been doing his homework on Huckerby – just as City boss Glenn Roeder had been doing his homework on Blackpool's Wes Hoolahan, the man who today stepped into the City's legend's shoes. Nominally, the 26-year-old will patrol that same 'left-ish' beat that Huckerby made his own; in practice, the Republic of Ireland international is likely to prove far more of a wandering star as he takes up position wherever both space and fancy take him.
“I have been looking at DVDs of him playing for Norwich in the season just ended and I can see he still has plenty to offer, but I cannot say any more than that at this stage,” said Yallop last month, with events little changed in the seven weeks since – other than the fact that from next Tuesday, Huckerby is indeed a free agent. Free to ply his trade wherever he wants in the world.
“I think Darren intends to come out here, visit Toronto and then depending on how he feels he might come and give us a look in San Jose,” added Yallop.
The Mercury also quoted ex-Canary hero Ted MacDougall in their piece. “He was made for MLS,” MacDougall told the paper. “Why? The way he attacks his players; the MLS is a little more open.”
What will be very interesting to know is whether or not Huckerby bumps into Gary Doherty on his Stateside travels. The out-of-contract Canary centre-half had dropped off Roeder's radar last week with an unsigned new contract offer sat on the table waiting for his return.
The 28-year-old has appeared in little or no hurry to agree new terms. But with the start of pre-season training little more than four days away now, the clock is firmly ticking as the City chief heads into the start of the new campaign with just one, experienced centre-half on the books in the shape of Jason Shackell.
Roeder has already given up on the chase for Martin 'Tiny' Taylor with the Birmingham City centre-half expected to stay firmly put at St Andrew's having long ago proved himself at this level. He is also on a long-term deal with the Blues.
The interesting club right now are West Bromwich Albion where two of their key promotion men – striker Kevin Phillips and strapping Danish centre-half Martin Albrechtsen have yet to agree new terms after falling out of contract this summer.
Phillips, 34, appears to be sticking to his guns in demanding a two-year deal, while six-foot one-inch Albrechtsen has – like Doherty – dropped off the radar as the 28-year-old, clearly, sees what else is out there before re-committing himself to the Baggies.
Hawthorns boss Tony Mowbray has long made it clear that he will not be held to ransom by either player; that if both can find bigger and better deals elsewhere, then good luck to them.
And with the clock ticking down to the start of West Bromwich's own pre-season preparations, the pressure will be mounting on all concerned to decide what – if anything – they are doing next season.
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