Canaries close in on Whitbread deal

Paddy DavittNorwich boss Paul Lambert was last night reportedly on the verge of completing his third signing of the week with a swoop for Millwall defender Zak Whitbread.Paddy Davitt

Norwich boss Paul Lambert was last night reportedly on the verge of completing his third signing of the week with a swoop for Millwall defender Zak Whitbread.

Skysports claimed the Canaries had been given permission to speak to the 25-year-old after agreeing a fee with the Lions for the ex-Liverpool trainee who is out of contract in the summer.

League One rivals Huddersfield have also been linked with a January window raid on the New Den after seeing a proposed November loan move fall through.

Whitbread's agent and former Man United defender Kevin Moran was unavailable for comment last night but the USA U23 international has previously seen moves to Championship duo Peterborough and Swansea collapse.

The blond centre back, however, needs regular first team action to force his way into America's World Cup squad after being sidelined all season with a hip injury. Whitbread only returned to training last month but Millwall now appear ready to accept a cut price offer for a player who would be a free agent in the summer.

The Texan's pending arrival is set to bolster City's threadbare back line with Danish stalwart Jens Berthel Askou ruled out for at least another five weeks with a broken foot. Michael Nelson and Gary Doherty are currently Lambert's only senior recognised centre halves although Michael Spillane is expected to step up his return from a hamstring problem later this month.

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Lambert was previously knocked back in his pursuit of Exeter's highly-rated young defender Dan Seaborne but Whitbread would join new permanent recruits Russell Martin and Anthony McNamee at Carrow Road.

Peterborough's former boss Darren Ferguson pulled out of a close season move prior to the new campaign, citing the player's wage demands, while Swansea decided to cool their initial interest after he underwent hip surgery.

'We agreed a deal for Zak with Millwall but because he has just had a hip operation, the player felt it was better if he remained at the club until he was fully fit again,' said Swans chairman Huw Jenkins in September. 'We will review the situation again in January.'

Whitbread grew up on Merseyside and progressed through the Anfield youth academy to make his senior debut ironically against Millwall in a League Cup tie at the New Den in 2004.

The 6ft defender featured in two opening Champions League qualifying round ties for Rafa Benitez's side at the start of the following season before joining the Lions on an initial year long loan deal.

Whitbread has since made more than 90 league appearances for the south London club and was an ever-present in Millwall's notable run to last season's League One play-off final. The 25-year-old was outstanding in two ties against Leeds but suffered Wembley agony in a 3-2 defeat to Scunthorpe.