Crystal Palace Neil Warnock today opened the way for Alan Lee to make a full-time switch to Carrow Road – in a summer swap deal for City winger Wes Hoolahan.
That, at least, was the word in South London this evening as the 30-year-old on-loan Eagles striker prepared to return to his former home at Portman Road on Sunday having wasted little time in winning over the Canary faithful since his recent switch to Norfolk.
A fact not lost on Warnock as he spoke to the local newspaper, the Croydon Advertiser, and claimed that any move for Lee would be dependent on the Canaries maintaining their Championship status.
Do that and with Lee having already stated his desire to stay at City on a longer-term basis, then Canary boss Bryan Gunn will clearly be interested in doing a bit of business – whether he'd be as keen to lose Hoolahan in the process, however, is another matter.
But given the financial situations at both clubs, the suspicion remains that such potential swap deals will be the way forward; that a 'barter economy' now exists between many a Championship club.
Certainly, Norwich will struggle to find the ?600,000 that the Eagles paid Ipswich for his services last August.
With just three goals to his name in 19 appearances since, it is a move that has turned somewhat sour on Warnock and Lee alike – hence the decision to get him away and on loan; hence the reports of Warnock being keen to cut his losses and take Hoolahan by way of compensation.
?Alan Lee has done well at Norwich. I know that Bryan Gunn is happy with him,” Warnock told the Croydon Advertiser tonight. ?A permanent move there could be a possibility, but it depends on if they can stay up.?
As is the way with local newspapers, they are unlikely to have plucked Hoolahan's name out of thin air. And having quoted Warnock in the piece with regard to Lee's possible full-time move, you would have to assume that Warnock's interest in the former Blackpool play-maker is fairly 'well-sourced'.
The 26-year-old has, of course, been sidelined since the 1-0 win over Plymouth with an ankle injury and is unlikely to figure again in the final three games of the season.
What will be interesting is whether Gunn and his boot room staff of No2 Ian Butterworth and head coach Ian Crook deem the nimble-footed Dubliner as a luxury item that they cannot really afford next season; that for all his invention and trickery, he has only added two goals to the pot.
And much in the same way as Darren Huckerby did, he doesn't really 'fit' into any natural hole for a side looking to play 4-4-2; Hoolahan's style doesn't lend itself to maintaining a rigid shape with two, solid banks of four. Nor is he an out-and-out, natural foil to a 'Big Un' up front – not, say, in the mould of a Cody McDonald.
That said, Gunn has gone on record as saying how much of a 'Wesley' fan he is; that he sees a big future for the player in a Norwich shirt.
But if the deal was 'My Lee, for your Hoolahan…' would Gunn bite? It is an intriguing question – particularly if Lee's current level of performance continues over the next three games and the clamour for his signature to be delivered on a full-time basis grows ever louder as a result.
Should Lee secure a full-time switch to Carrow Road this summer – with or without Hoolahan's exit – he would certainly find skipper Gary Doherty rolling out the red carpet in welcome.
For having scored his first goal in Canary colours at The Liberty Stadium, Swansea, on Saturday, Lee then rolled up his sleeves again and delivered a Man of the Match performance against Watford – a display that included a wonderful, surging run and final shot that cannoned back and away off the woodwork.
All of which had Doherty singing his praises afterwards.
“He has added aggression and power – I have never seen a player work that hard,” said Doherty, delighted that Lee is now on his side, not the opposition's. He will, of course, have one or two painful derby memories of the Republic of Ireland striker in full battle cry.
This weekend and the boot will be firmly on the other foot as Lee looks to add to Jim Magilton's current managerial woes – and at the same time keeping the Canaries edging ever further north and away from the drop zone.
“It was tough for him, being an ex-Ipswich player, but the fans have really taken to him,” added Doherty.