Huckerby blasts City sales

Darren Huckerby launched an angry attack on Norwich City yesterday after it was revealed that the heart of the Canaries midfield was in danger of being ripped apart by the sale of Dickson Etuhu.


Darren Huckerby launched an angry attack on Norwich City yesterday after it was revealed that the heart of the Canaries midfield was in danger of being ripped apart by the sale of Dickson Etuhu.

Less than a fortnight after leading scorer Robert Earnshaw was sold for a cut-price £3.5m when Derby triggered a get-out clause in his contract, City face the prospect of losing Etuhu by the same process.

Etuhu was understood to be in talks with Premiership new boys Sunderland yesterday after the Black Cats triggered a clause allowing him to speak to clubs offering £1.5m.

And with midfielder Youssef Safri still being linked with West Bromwich Albion, manager Peter Grant's rebuilding plans have suddenly been hit by another major problem with less than a month before the start of the new season.

Sunderland took their summer spending to £14m yesterday with the £5m capture of Manchester United's Kieran Richardson, but their interest in the 25-year-old Etuhu - who had been linked with Derby soon after Earnshaw's move - came out of the blue, with Huckerby spilling the beans during an unrelated press opportunity yesterday.

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“We can't keep losing very good players,” said Huckerby. “Obviously Dickson looks like he is going somewhere else, Saff maybe, we have already lost Earnie - for a team that you would say struggled a little bit last season, to lose three of your best players, you can only go on like that for so long.

“It is frustrating because they are very good players. On his day Dickson is the most complete midfielder in this league - on his day.

“Maybe he has had inconsistency, but when he plays well he is virtually unstoppable and to lose a player of that quality for, what is it, £1.5m, who are you going to buy?

“We are not going to be able to spend that kind of money and get the same player in.”

City are expected to address the issues arising from yesterday's events some time today, but were last night sticking to their policy of declining to comment on speculation.

But the underlying message from Huckerby - who has resisted several offers to leave Carrow Road since his arrival at the end of 2003 - is one that will be of concern to City fans, and the manager.

“I am very disappointed and there is going to come a time where I am not going to be too happy about keep losing players,” he said.

“It is disappointing because I want to win games and to do that you want good players and at the minute it seems to be we are losing our best players.

“There is going to come a time when I am not going to be happy with losing our best players every season. It is not just once or twice - it is your Dean Ashtons, your Damien Francis', Leon McKenzies, your Earnies, very good players. Greeny - Greeny was a bit different, he was here for 10 years, so he put his stint in, but a lot of these players haven't been here for that long. Ash was here a year, Earnie was here for a year, now it just seems you are fighting an uphill battle all the time.”

Grant now finds himself facing the prospect of losing a second player to a clause in a contract that was negotiated before his arrival - and the task of finding a replacement.

“The gaffer is trying his best to get players in, but he must be tearing his hair out,” said Huckerby. “You lose two of your best players for under what they are worth really - we can't replace them for that kind of money.

“We have come in, signed a few players, and this morning you hear that Dickson is going and the lads are gutted, because we know Dickson is a good player, he is going to be near enough impossible to replace. Like I said it is starting to get on my nerves a little bit to be honest.”

Etuhu missed Saturday's first pre-season game of the summer, his absence explained by dental problems the previous night.

Born in Nigeria, he joined Norwich from Preston on loan in November, 2005, before the move was made permanent in a £450,000 deal two months later. He made 15 Championship starts in the second half of that campaign under Nigel Worthington, but last season made more starts - 49 in all competitions - than any other player.

However, he has taken time to endear himself to City fans, where opinion will still be divided over the sale of a player who was clearly as major part of Grant's plans for next season - even at a six-figure profit.

Should that be the case, Grant is expected to be allowed to use the funds to find a replacement and add to the six new faces he has brought in this summer.

The £3.5m sale of Earnshaw supplemented the £2m interest free-loan from new directors Andrew and Sharon Turner, which guaranteed no players had to be sold. Grant's transfer fees this summer are estimated to have cost City around £3m, which suggests there is money to play with. The problem he faces is who to spend it on.