Hucks told to do talking on the pitch

The conflict between the Carrow Road boardroom and dressing room deepened as chief executive Neil Doncaster told star player Darren Huckerby - “do your talking on the pitch”.

The conflict between the Carrow Road boardroom and dressing room deepened last night as chief executive Neil Doncaster told star player Darren Huckerby - “do your talking on the pitch”.

As Dickson Etuhu's controversial £1.5m move to top-flight newcomers Sunderland was signed and sealed, Doncaster vowed to have a “quiet word” with Huckerby for his scathing attack on the club's hierarchy.

Huckerby sounded off about the impending sale of midfielder Etuhu, top scorer Robert Earnshaw's £3.5m move to Derby County - and the persistent rumour that Youssef Safri is on his way to West Bromwich Albion.

The flying winger said he was “very disappointed” at the sales, and appeared to question the board's ambition.

The apparent rift raises fears that Huckerby could throw in the towel - though the board is unlikely to force the issue with a man who is a fans' legend.

Doncaster said Huckerby would not be formally disciplined for breaking rank, but said: “It's more a question of having a quiet word and suggesting his talking is better done on the pitch.”

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He added: “Players aren't always in the loop about transfers. Darren is a passionate individual, which is his nature, and no doubt he was frustrated when he heard about Dickson.

“We were all frustrated. But Dickson chose to turn down a new, longer contract to go to the Premier League.”

Message boards were busy yesterday as fans expressed their annoyance that both Earnshaw and Etuhu had clauses in their contracts that allowed them to talk to a club that offered a certain amount of money.

Some questioned the wisdom of allowing the clauses to be inserted.

But Doncaster said: “We wouldn't have got either player without the buy-out clauses. These clauses are a fact of modern life and are all through the industry.

“When you are bringing in decent players, other clubs are willing to put these clauses in. We could make a principled stand, but we wouldn't get the players.”

He said a number of Norwich's recent new signings had been made thanks to similar trigger clauses that City had taken advantage of.

And he admitted that a number of other current Canary players had buy-out clauses in their contracts - but he would not say who.

Neil Featherby, who represents players in transfer negotiations and is a director of Sport Link Promotions, said: “Buy-out clauses have changed the face of football. You can't have lower league sides holding back a player's career by demanding over-inflated transfer fees.”

He said the clauses went “right down to the non-league scene”.

Doncaster also reassured fans that the board remained ambitious. “Everyone at the football club's sole ambition is to get the club into the Premier League. However, what we will not do is spend money we cannot afford.

“The players we have brought in have been bought despite stiff competition from a number of other clubs. We remain a very well placed club in comparison to many clubs in the Championship.”

He revealed that Preston North End would get 12pc of Norwich's profit on Etuhu because of an agreement when he signed from the Lilywhites in January 2006 - leaving City with a profit of around £900,000 on a player who cost them an initial fee of £450,000.

Doncaster also refuted accusations that City were a “selling club”.

He said: “The facts don't bear that out. In the past we have had to sell the likes of Darren Eadie, Craig Bellamy and Chris Sutton just so the club can stay afloat.

“We are no longer in that situation. You have seen over the summer with the likes of David Strihavka, Jamie Cureton, Julien Brellier, Jon Otsemobor, David Marshall and Matthew Gilks that we are bringing good players into the club.”

He said all the money made from the Etuhu transfer would be handed over to City boss Peter Grant for his transfer kitty.

Huckerby's disquiet became clear at a press conference on Monday when he revealed that Etuhu was on his way out.

He said: “I want to play in a team that wins games and to do that you need your best players. At the minute we've lost three of our best players. There's going to come a time where I'm not going to be happy about losing our best players every season.”

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

“The lads are gutted because we know that Dickson is a good player - he's going to be near enough impossible. It's starting to get on my nerves a bit to be honest - but that's life.”