Speculation was tonight mounting that signing No6 of the summer wasn’t too far away – as reports in Huddersfield strongly linked the Canaries to a move for 23-year-old winger Anthony Pilkington.
The Republic Of Ireland Under-21 international – courtesy of a grandmother – has attracted much attention this summer – despite being sidelined since March with a broken leg and a dislocated ankle.
Only last week, Town chairman Dean Hoyle was all-but conceding defeat in their bid to keep the young man at the Galpharm Stadium; this afternoon and on the club’s official website, the chairman was effectively saying his farewells as a then unnamed Premiership club circled.
“Pilks’ deserves his chance to play on the biggest stage in England,” Hoyle told supporters, with the local paper claiming a “£2 million plus” deal had been agreed for the one-time Stockport County starlet.
“A deal isn’t sealed yet,” added the Town chairman. “But if Pilks does go, he leaves with all my best wishes and my thanks for what he has done for the club.
“He is a great lad. He has provided us all with some fantastic football and many great moments of individual brilliance that will certainly live long in my memory. Every time he has pulled on a Town shirt, he has given his all.”
If Pilkington is, indeed, the next name on Paul Lambert’s shopping list, he once again comes straight out of central casting Colney-wise.
For having played youth team football for both his home town club of Blackburn and Manchester United, Pilkington’s path to the top tier of the English game then took him via the North West Counties League and a short stint with Atherton Colleries before a three-year spell at The Hatters.
That saw him rack up a League Two Play-off Final win at Wembley en route to League One, before former Canary No2 Lee Clark made him his first signing as Town boss in January, 2009.
Speaking earlier this summer, Clark was determined to keep Pilkington in his plans for next season – despite the fact that interest was clearly mounting in the versatile forward.
Able to play on either flank or through the middle, the six-foot prospect merely adds yet further options to Lambert’s ever-strengthening hand. Much, clearly, to Clark’s disappointment this evening.
“He’s one of the best players in the Football League and I’m not surprised he’s being linked with Premier League clubs,” Clark said, speaking before events quickened over the last 24 hours.
Once again, presumably money finally talked – as it invariably does in such circumstances. That and the prospect of playing Premier League football.
“The rumours are pretty much inevitable, but the figures being talked about are hugely below our valuation, and the best way to look at them is that they confirm we are doing the right things in signing talented young players and developing them,” said Clark, having – in all likelihood – merely polished up Pilkington’s talents in time for Lambert to come a-calling.
The added complication to this signing is, of course, that the player will arrive at Colney with an injury in tow. Clark was confident that he was firmly on the mend – something that the City medical team will like to check for themselves before any deal is completed.
Broken legs are one thing, dislocated ankles quite another – it is there that their attention will focus.
“While he might not be able to start pre-season with the group, I’m confident he’ll be ready for the first league game,” said the Huddersfield chief earlier this month. It is a timetable that the player himself appeared to confirm when he spoke to the official Huddersfield website just last week.
“I think I am quite close to the end of my rehab now,” said Pilkington, the injury having been sustained in the 2-1 home win over Rochdale.
“I have started to do some twisting and turning on my ankle and it feels good at the moment,” he added.
Despite his season ending in March, Pilkington still made the PFA League One team of the year on the back of 14 goals and some eye-catching individual displays. The PFA opted to play him wide left – off his weaker left foot.
With Brighton’s Elliott Bennett already in the building, the Canaries will head into Premiership battle with fresh width and pace to their game.
“I believe we are ready to step up the intensity and, hopefully, in a couple of weeks I may be in a position where I can join the first team in warm-ups,” added Pilkington.