£3.5m Earnshaw money to transfer budget

CHRIS LAKEY Norwich City chief executive Neil Doncaster confirmed yesterday that the £3.5m from the sale of Robert Earnshaw will go straight into the City manager's transfer budget - joining the £2m loaned to the club by new directors Sharon and Andrew Turner last month.

CHRIS LAKEY

Norwich City will not dip into Peter Grant's transfer kitty to balance the books.

Chief executive Neil Doncaster confirmed yesterday that the £3.5m from the sale of Robert Earnshaw will go straight into the City manager's transfer budget - joining the £2m loaned to the club by new directors Sharon and Andrew Turner last month.

“We are sorry to be losing a player of Robert's ability, but the search for other players goes on as we try to maintain a promotion challenge this coming season,” said Doncaster.

“We made it clear when Andrew and Sharon Turner put the £2m into the club that any money raised from player sales would go back into Peter's budget. All of the Earnshaw money will go back to Peter Grant.”

Jamie Cureton's arrival yesterday will probably cost City around £500,000 which, in theory, should leave Grant around £5m to play with.

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City fans wasted no time in voicing their anger at the cut-price nature of Earnshaw's sale yesterday, with internet message boards buzzing after the news was announced mid-afternoon.

But Doncaster insisted that the buy-out clause in Earnshaw's contract had been a critical part of signing him in the first place.

“In common with many players these days, Robert had a buy-out clause in his contract with us at £3.5m,” he said. “The precise terms of that clause were critical to Robert's arrival here in January 2006 and without the buy-out clause he would not have come here.”

While Grant will be happy enough to see additions to his kitty, there is little doubt that the loss of a player who managed 19 goals in just 28 Championship starts last season is a huge blow to his ambitions. Grant was adamant last season that had he not lost Earnshaw to injury for four months City would have been in the play-off picture. Instead, without his goals, the Canaries finished a disappointing 16th.

The summer plan was to bring in another striker to take the burden off the Welsh international's shoulders - instead, even with Cureton coming in for an undisclosed fee yesterday, Grant still finds himself still looking for more personnel up front.

The bid to bring in Billy Sharp from Scunthorpe failed and while Freddy Eastwood is an option, Southend want double the £1.5m the Canaries were prepared to pay a month ago.

Should Grant renew the chase, he will again face competition from Wolves boss Mick McCarthy, who has reportedly tabled a new £1.5m offer for Eastwood.

And while that falls way below Southend chairman Ron Martin's estimates, the player has expressed his desire to leave Roots Hall and return to the Championship - and has dropped some strong hints about moving to Molineux.

There is a third option being suggested - that City gazump rivals Ipswich for Francis Jeffers.

Town boss Jim Magilton has made no secret of his wish to keep Jeffers, who enjoyed a successful two-month loan spell at Portman Road at the end of last season.

But Blackburn have confirmed another Championship club are in for the 26-year-old - with suggestion that it is either Norwich or Coventry.

Ipswich's best bid is one of £500,000 plus add-ons - but Rovers will be aware that Town are in for a £2.5m windfall from Bent's sale.

“There is always going to be speculation about Franny and we have to go along with that,” said Magilton. “He is our main priority and we want him in the building, we will be doing all we can to confirm it.

“But if it doesn't happen we will have to look elsewhere. There's no panic.

“Blackburn are obviously looking at the Darren Bent situation at Charlton knowing that if he moves it will mean money for us in the sell-on clause.”

Colchester central defender Pat Baldwin had scoffed at speculation linking him with a move to Norwich.

“It's only a silly rumour, pie in the sky,” said the 24-year-old. “I don't know where that's come from. I'm going nowhere. I'm very happy where I am.”