Events in a Hong Kong court could yet help ease Norwich City’s on-going quest for a new manager as Birmingham City’s financial problems mounted further overnight.
Blues boss Chris Hughton has long been seen by the bookies as the clear favourite to land the Carrow Road vacancy.
And while Birmingham successfully fended off a reported approach from near-neighbours West Bromwich Albion over the weekend, reports in The Midlands today suggested that the St Andrews club were braced for fresh enquiries – led by the Canaries.
What may yet strengthen Norwich’s hand is the daily weakening of Birmingham’s financial position.
Today Blues’ embattled owner Carson Yeung found himself given just 56 days to leave his £12 million luxury home in the exclusive Peak district of Hong Kong after failing to repay personal loans worth £15 million to the Wing Hang organisation.
Yeung, the Birmingham Mail reported, has already found his business assets frozen after being charged in connection with a £59 million money laundering operation.
Birmingham International Holdings Ltd – Blues’ parent company and, therefore, Hughton’s ultimate employer – have thus been unable to produce a set of end-of-year accounts and, as a consequence, the Football League have placed a transfer embargo on the club.
None of which can make for a secure future for the 53-year-old Hughton as he continues to figure amongst City’s ‘Most Wanted’.
Birmingham’s vice-president Peter Pannu has been left holding the baby in Yeung’s absence; in every likelihood, he will be centre stage this week should Canary chief executive David McNally and Norwich make their interest known formally.
Pannu fought a ‘robust’ campaign to end West Bromwich Albion’s chase of Hughton’s services; his position, however, may have weakened of late as Yeung’s woes mount.
Writing in the club programme for Blues’ narrow play-off semi-final defeat to Blackpool, Pannu mounted a stout defence of his beleaguered chief – that fresh investment could yet be forthcoming.
“What is the truth is we were short of the funds spent on players and wages while we were in the Premier League, which Carson promised to cover but it did not quite materialise due to his predicament and the freezing of his funds, for which I’m sure he regrets and feels sorry about as it was beyond his control,” he wrote, denying that Blues were flirting with bankruptcy.
The position wasn’t pretty; but would ease again – if Yeung’s own legal difficulties back in Hong Kong ever eased.
“We also lost a substantial source of income from the Premier League following relegation,” added Pannu.
“You may not believe me when I say this but Carson Yeung does care about the club and he would have given us the money he promised if his funds were not frozen.”
Depending on just how tight Birmingham’s finances are, the prospect of a lucrative compensation deal for their in-demand manager might bolster Norwich’s hopes of landing their man. The Baggies were reportedly quoted a figure of £2 million by way of compensation.
Why Norwich might be interested in Hughton is not hard to fathom – particularly on the back of his record at Newcastle.
Guiding the Magpies back into the top flight at the first time of asking in 2009-2010, a Championship title was then followed by a strong start to their Premier League campaign – only to seemingly fall foul of the politics that follow the club’s owner Mike Ashley.
His spell at St James’ had yielded a 55% win record; more intriguingly his transfer policy delivered a clutch of relative unknowns that have gone on to form a solid core of Alan Pardew’s outfit – including Dan Gosling, James Perch, Hatem Ben Arfa and Cheick Tiote.
The narrow 3-2 defeat to Ian Holloway’s Blackpool only denied Hughton a play-off final trip to Wembley last month. Given events off the field at St Andrew’s, simply finishing in the top six at all appears to have been no mean feat.