The official Preston North End site this afternoon confirmed that they had agreed a transfer fee with the Canaries for winger Simon Whaley.
The 24-year-old one-time Bury winger was now free to talk to City with regard to his personal terms and was reported to be en route north to team up with City boss Bryan Gunn at the club's tour base at St Andrew's University.
“Simon was left out of the squads to face Chorley and Bamber Bridge on Tuesday night and travelled up to meet Norwich manager Bryan Gunn at the Norfolk club's Scottish training camp,” the site reported this lunchtime.
“The club [PNE] believes that talks will continue at the weekend when the League One side return from north of the border and if personal terms can be agreed, all the terms of a move would be in place.”
Neither party have mentioned a fee; Whaley moved the short distance to Preston from Bury for ?250,000 in 2006. Even though he was loaned out to Barnsley mid-way through the 2008-2009 campaign, he still made over two dozen appearances for the Deepdale side – albeit scoring just twice; once for the Tykes and once for his full-time employers.
Earlier in the week, reports suggested that Darel Russell could be used as a makeweight in any deal; the Canary midfielder did not travel north with the rest of the tour party as City No2 Ian Butterworth suggested that both he and Sammy Clingan had other fish to fry transfer-wise and might even be gone by the time the Canaries head home following Saturday's clash with Airdrie.
However, Preston boss Alan Irvine has since ruled out a move for Russell telling the Lancashire Evening Post that Whaley's switch to East Anglia was a 'stand alone' deal; that no-one would be coming the other way.
“There has been an inquiry from Norwich about Simon but at the moment that is all we can say,” Irvine told the paper earlier in the week.
“It is something that could happen, but it is something that may not happen,” he added. “It is simply a stand-alone deal, if there is going to be a deal. They have made an inquiry, at this moment we have not had an official offer from them.”
That has clearly changed as the Canaries step up their quest to fill the last two, gaping holes in their 2009-2010 armoury – a replacement for Lee Croft and one for the likes of loan star Alan Lee. A big, strapping No9 to be slammed straight down the middle of the side.
Before leaving for Scotland on Sunday, Gunn readily admitted that finding a replacement for the departed Croft was “an area that we're looking at”.
The likes of both triallist Paul McVeigh and Wes Hoolahan offer tricks a-plenty on either flank; neither really does pace; neither will really be that comfortable going outside their full-back; their first instinct will be to come inside and make the game 'narrow'.
Hence Gunn's determination to find someone who can stretch defences across the full width of the pitch and therein make space for others to exploit.
“We've got Scotty Neilson in [from Cambridge City] and we've been having a good look at him over the past two weeks,” said Gunn, as the part-time footballer and part-time plumber looks to follow the Cody McDonald path into the professional game.
“But it is another area that we're looking to address. We know that there's no natural ones within the squad at the moment, so you can maybe deduce that that is one of the positions that we're currently looking to address.”
Neilson, of course, did himself no harm with a super strike in the 7-2 win over Dartford on Saturday. Whether he can make the step is the next big question; whether Gunn can afford to play wait-and-see with the Cambridge City hopeful is another matter.
“He's looking very fit,” said Gunn of Neilson. “He's obviously worked very hard in the summer in the knowledge that he's coming here. And it's now just a case of seeing him in a match situation.”
Filling that right-hand midfield slot has not been made any easier by the slight strain picked up by last season's FA Youth Cup skipper Korey Smith. Naturally more at home at either right-back or as Tom Adeyemi's side-kick in central midfield, Smith could do a job out wide.
As for the left, that belonged to Matty Pattison at Raith Rovers last night – indeed, it was his ball in-field that set up Paul McVeigh's winner.
He is one option; Hoolahan another; as is Simon Lappin who was sat on the bench at Stark's Park alst night and can reasonably expect to feature in tomorrow afternoon's clash with St Johnstone.
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