Norwich City linked to Exeter ‘magician’ Ryan Harley

Norwich City could be in the hunt to sign highly-rated Exeter City playmaker Ryan Harley, the Evening News understands.

The 25-year-old former Bristol City trainee has been in sparkling form for Paul Tisdale’s Grecians, scoring eight goals in 14 appearances so far this season – including a brace in August’s Carling Cup 3-2 home defeat to Ipswch after extra time – to see them sit just one point off the League One play-off places.

Harley’s current contract status has not been confirmed by the Devon club, although it is understood he is likely to be out of contract come the summer, and that has prompted the interest of several unnamed Championship clubs – a list City are believed to be on.

Rumours over Harley’s future have been circulating in the south west for some time, where the midfielder and current team-mate – former Norwich City strike Jamie Cureton – have helped Exeter improve from last season’s battle for third tier survival following a meteoric rise from the Conference, to promotion contenders.

Exeter’s improvement has been reflected by that of Harley – something acknowledged by Rochdale manager Keith Hill following his side’s 1-0 defeat at St James Park earlier this month.

“I think Ryan Harley is a magician,” said Hill. “I think he is that good that one day, he will play in the Premier League. The only thing that probably goes against him is his (lack of) pace, but he has a cleverness and Paul Tisdale has him working to good effect in that little pocket.”

Harley’s form means the Grecians are expecting offers for their prized asset when the transfer window reopens in the New Year. But with the midfielder contracted until June a transfer fee would be involved, and that could prove to be a stumbling block for Norwich – who had a similar issue when trying to prise defender Danny Seaborne away from the Grecians last season before his eventual move to Southampton.

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Only last week, Canaries boss Paul Lambert reiterated the fact that money remains tight at Carrow Road in terms of player recruitment. But should City make their move in January for a player who has excelled playing just off two strikers at St James Park, it would raise a few inevitable questions over the future of Wes Hoolahan, whose Norwich contract runs out at the end of this season.

The Republic of Ireland international is in his third season at Carrow Road, after being signed by Glenn Roeder in a �250,000 switch from Blackpool that saw goalkeeper Matthew Gilks head in the other direction.

Since suffering Championship relegation in his first year at the club, Hoolahan has become a firm favourite with the City faithful and acknowledged he played some of the best football of his career during the Canaries’ march to the League One crown last season, scoring 14 goals – and creating many more – in 42 appearances.

It remains to be seen whether City boss Paul Lambert and Hoolahan, 28, have discussed extending the attacking midfielder’s stay into a fourth season.