Posh striker Craig Mackail-Smith was at today at the centre of a Premier League guessing game as Barry Fry confirmed that the newly-promoted London Road side had agreed a fee with an unnamed club for the want-away striker.
Ever the grand tease, however, Fry wasn’t naming names. The Sun claimed Norwich.
“We have had plenty of interest for Craig and we have accepted one bid,” Fry told the Peterborough Evening Telegraph this evening.
No figures, no names, just one bid agreed.
One can’t help feeling that Fry – these days ‘director of football’ at the Cambridgeshire club – loves playing the ring-master in all this; he is a past-master at the transfer game and in the 35-goal Mackail-Smith has one of the hotter transfer properties on his hands this summer.
At 27-years-old, the one-time Dagenham & Redbridge striker is coming into his prime football-wise. His 99th goal for the club came in the 3-0 League One Play-Off final win over Huddersfield over the weekend.
It prompted Mackail-Smith to issue something of a farewell statement as he made his Premier League ambitions clear; likewise, boss Darren Ferguson was paving the way for his exit – suggesting that his star turn was odds-on to be elsewhere this summer.
Provided, of course, that someone, somewhere matched Peterborough’s valuation on the player.
Someone now has. But, for now, Fry was playing Mum. He has, however, made the player himself aware of the fast-changing situation. The player could, of course, sit tight and see who else dips their toe in the water.
Believe the tabloids and half the Premiership have been sniffing around his signature. To which, Fry took it upon himself today to add both Rangers and Celtic; West Ham United are another option. Apparently.
All that is known for certain is that no-one at Peterbrough United is exactly discreet about their transfer dealings; witness the chairman Darragh MacAnthony talking to the Daily Mail in March.
“Norwich came in strong for Craig last Friday,” the Posh chairman told the world, speaking in the middle of March. He quoted an offer being made of £1.5 million with an additional £1 million in add-ons.
“I rejected that bid as not right for the club,” he then added, washing all his transfer linen in public.
“If £2 million was offered straight up today with £1 million of guaranteed add-ons then Craig would be allowed to go.”
Which is called a price tag.
So presumeably, therefore, someone has decided to cough the £3 million that MacAnthony, Fry and Ferguson have been looking for.
Whether the arrival of James Vaughan on a three-year deal this week has ended Norwich’s interest in Mackail-Smith will, likewise, all become clear; the Canaries appear to have another iron in the fire in the shape of Millwall’s transfer-seeking Steve Morison.
Either way, the ball has now been dropped into Mackail-Smith’s court; Peterborough have their price; does the player have the Premier League deal he has been seeking?
“Craig is aware of this [the acceptance of an offer] but I don’t expect him to make his mind up in a hurry,” said Fry, throwing the names of the two Scottish giants into the mix for good measure. Mackail-Smith made his international debut for Scotland this spring; the interest, therefore, isn’t without some foundation.
“Celtic and Rangers have also declared an interest, but my feeling is that Craig wants to have a go in the English Premier League,” added Fry, his eye now on spending the Mackail-Smith cash.
“I had a meeting with the chairman and the manager yesterday to confirm our targets and our plans for next season. I am very busy as a result and we have made a substantial bid for a new player already.”
The manner in which Peterborough opt to do their business – loudly and in public – is, of course, wholly opposite to the way in which the Canaries under both Lambert and chief executive David McNally opt to go about their’s.
The rule at Carrow Road is that ‘silence is golden’; only when every last tick, dot and comma have been agreed – and a medical completed to match – is Norwich’s interest in a player confirmed.
So, caution is likely to be the watchword. That and a pinch of salt.
That he’s off, however, appears in little doubt.
“You would have to say the odds are stacked with him probably leaving,” were Ferguson’s comments this weekend – a parting speech from the manager if ever there was one.
“We would have to get the right money for him, but everyone would wish him all the best. He’s earned the chance to go and play at a higher level.”
It’s just where that remains the question this evening.