£1m-rated Halford tops City wanted list
RICK WAGHORN Nigel Worthington's urgent mission to start splashing the Dean Ashton cash before the January transfer window slams shut on him continued today as his pursuit of Colchester United's England Under-20 star Greg Halford took centre stage.
Nigel Worthington's urgent mission to start splashing the Dean Ashton cash before the January transfer window slams shut on him continued today as his pursuit of Colchester United's England Under-20 star Greg Halford took centre stage.
With the departing Canary striker expected to be unveiled at Upton Park tonight following his £7.25 million switch to the Hammers, all eyes were now on Worthington and where he intends to spend Norwich City's record-breaking transfer deal as the club's hopes of securing a play-off berth begin to edge over the horizon following Saturday's heart-breaking 3-2 home defeat by Watford.
Halford would now appear to top the Canaries' wanted list - alongside Cardiff City striker Cameron Jerome. Both fit the “young and hungry” billing that Worthington is looking for; neither, however, are straight, out-and-out replacements for the departing Ashton, who was reported to have completed his personal terms last night with a view to passing a medical this morning.
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The beauty of Halford, however, is that he can play in at least four positions with the 6ft 4in 21-year-old having played at right-back, right-midfield, centre-midfield and centre-forward in grabbing eight goal in his 27 United appearances this season.
“We do like the player,” said Worthington. “And, yes, we have made an inquiry and that's as far as it has gone.”
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With a potential transfer figure of £1 million mentioned over the weekend, Halford could be the answer to many of City's prayers on that troubled right-hand side. Norwich's biggest problem is that Worthington is far from the youngster's only admirer.
England Under-21 boss Peter Taylor is a big fan after spotting Halford's versatility as Hull boss last season when the Tigers racked up a 2-0 win over Colchester. It prompted a swift promotion to Taylor's England Under-20 party to Toulon where Halford found himself partnering Bradley Wright-Phillips in attack one minute - and smashing home a 25-yard drive to boot - slipping back to right-midfield the next. Not bad for a right-back.
“He started at right-back this season and has gone on to play in different positions through the season - he even played in three different positions against Hull City,” said Taylor out in Toulon this summer.
“Here he's played up front, scored a great goal, and then he's played in midfield. He can also run the flanks so he's a prospect, that's for sure.”
So much of a prospect that he has also been linked to switches to both Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur. The fact that Colchester are currently top of League One and have no immediate financial need to sell may also queer City's pitch; as might the fact that Cardiff City's transfer dealings are handled by Sam Hammam and Peter Ridsdale - neither of whom fall into the straight-forward category.
Cardiff's hopes of organizing a little auction between Norwich and Sheffield United might come to nothing now that the Blades have targeted a £1.75 million swoop for Ade Akinbiyi.
Ashton's exit became nigh-on inevitable once he declared his heart set on a move to the East End - as the player himself admitted in his farewell speech to the club's website issued yesterday morning after the Canary board made their fateful decision in the wake of the Watford defeat.
“West Ham are a big club,” said Ashton, who sat out Saturday's game with a slight groin strain. “I am ambitious and at the end of the day the chance to step up to the Premiership is too good to turn down. I spoke to Nigel Worthington and the board and told them I wanted to pursue this opportunity.”
At which point Norwich were effectively forced to deal. “When a good, young player decides that he wants to go - and makes it clear to all concerned that his future lies elsewhere - than all you can do is be pragmatic and make the best of the situation,” said Canary chief executive Neil Doncaster. “We believe we have done that.
“The wheel keeps on turning. It's not a beginning or an end, it's just part of the long history of Norwich City Football Club.”