Price not right for Earnshaw

CHRIS WISE Norwich City manager Nigel Worthington has declared an interest in signing West Bromwich Albion hot-shot Robert Earnshaw - but he won't be paying over the odds to bring him to Carrow Road.


Norwich City manager Nigel Worthington has declared an interest in signing West Bromwich Albion hot-shot Robert Earnshaw - but he won't be paying over the odds to bring him to Carrow Road.

The man who shot to prominence at Cardiff, where he averaged more than a goal every other game, has struggled to reproduce that sort of form for the Baggies this season and was recently placed on the transfer list at his own request.

Worthington revealed yesterday that he had contacted his opposite number Bryan Robson to discuss a possible move back to the Championship with the Canaries - but had been put off by Albion's asking price, believed to be around £3m.

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“We made an inquiry for the player - but the price that was quoted was out of our reach,” said the City boss when asked about the latest striker to be linked with the club since the departure of Dean Ashton.

Earnshaw stands some eight inches shorter than Ashton, so there's no way he could ever be a direct replacement for the £7.25m frontman. But the pair do have one thing in common - a proven goal-scoring record.

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The diminutive striker netted 105 times in just 205 appearances for Cardiff before getting his dream move to the Premiership during the summer of 2004 and then weighed in with a highly creditable 14 goals as Robson's side pulled off an incredible great escape to preserve their top flight status.

That made him Albion's top scorer by some distance but he has failed to build on an encouraging first season in the West Midlands. Robson now has a wealth of striking talent at his disposal and, as a result Earnshaw, has been pushed well down the pecking order, with a perceived lack of work-rate doing little to help his cause.

So far this term the Welsh international has made just 16 appearances for the Baggies, only seven of which have been starts, and has scored three goals - and it was with that low-key record in mind that he decided to ask for a move, with Robson eventually yielding to his request.

“Earnie has put a transfer request in and I accept that,” he said recently. “Every player has his price, but at the moment we've not had any offers.”

Unless Robson budges on his £3m valuation - which is based on the figure he paid for Earnshaw 18 months ago - then Worthington is unlikely to pursue his interest in the player, who has also been linked with Southampton in recent weeks.

The City boss made it clear yesterday that he wouldn't be paying over the odds for any individual just because he had some money to spend following Ashton's departure - and the closure of January transfer window was in sight.

Worthington has until midnight on Tuesday to bring in fresh faces on a permanent basis - and will only be interested in doing a deal if he thinks it's in the best interests of the club.

“There is nothing concrete to report at this moment in time,” he said. “There is a lot of work going on and we are just going to have to be patient and see what happens.

“It's a very hard situation to work in because there is limited time and prices become very inflated. We'll do what is right financially for this football club and go from there.

“We can do a permanent transfer up until Tuesday night and after that there's always the possibility of loans.

“We will be sensible. We will try and use whatever money is available as well as we can, and then go from there.”

As always, Worthington will be adopting a low-key approach as the transfer deadline looms.

“I think there is a code of conduct there - and doing your business quietly and effectively is better than announcing what your intentions are beforehand,” he said.

“If you do that and it doesn't happen then players and agents get disappointed and it's also frustrating for supporters.

“We like to keep things under wraps until such time as there is something to be announced.”

Understandably enough, Worthington had nothing to say on reports emanating from the south west which said the Canaries had had a £2m bid for Cardiff striker Cameron Jerome rejected by the Welsh club.

But Birmingham City owner David Sullivan was a good deal more talkative after admitting that his own bid for the 19-year-old front-man had been turned down.

“We were very interested in Cameron at £2million, but certainly not at £3.5million,” he said.

“It's simply not a realistic price, it's too much for someone who has come into the first team and only had a good couple of months.

“At £2million, he's worth taking a chance on. But not at £3.5million.

“I'm sure there are a lot of clubs sniffing around as he's had a very good season. But, like us, a lot will be warned off at that price tag of £3.5million.”

One assumes that Norwich might well fall into that category as well, and unless Bluebirds' owner Sam Hammam is prepared to lower his demands then it would appear that Jerome will be staying put - until the summer at least.

The same applies to Milton Keynes Dons' highly-rated Izale McLeod, who has also been linked with a move to Carrow Road since Ashton's departure.

The Canaries are also continuing to keep close tabs on versatile Colchester youngster Greg Halford, who can play anywhere down the right flank, but the player has an FA Cup fourth round tie against Derby to concentrate on at the moment - and there is unlikely to be any movement on that one until after the weekend.

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