Thorne: Ashton should stay here

Norwich City striker Peter Thorne has urged Dean Ashton to stay at Carrow Road to help fire the Canaries back into the Premiership.

Norwich City striker Peter Thorne has urged Dean Ashton to stay at Carrow Road to help fire the Canaries back into the Premiership.

The transfer soap opera swirling around the 22-year-old took a fresh twist on the eve of Saturday's FA Cup third round tie against West Ham when Ashton was left out of the squad.

Canaries' boss Nigel Worthington sought to dampen down some of the wilder speculation by delivering a post-match injury bulletin on his top scorer.

Thorne knows Norwich can do little to stop the Premiership vultures circling, but the experienced striker believes Ashton is in no hurry to jump ship.

“It's important from the club's point of view to try and keep him and I think Deano would like to stick around himself,” he said. “As footballers we always try to get inside his head to see what he's thinking, but anyone can see he's enjoying his football, he's settled and that is a big thing.

“The problem is if someone comes in with a really stupid offer and then the club is under pressure. We had all this speculation in the summer and he showed his commitment then. As players you can't let these things affect you.

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“Deano is a big lad, banging in goals for fun and if you take a look around the top English leagues there are not too many of his type about so he's always going to generate a lot of interest.

“We just need to keep him. Look at the injuries we have now and you can see we are struggling because the squad isn't the biggest.”

Ashton remains a doubt for Saturday's trip to Plymouth after picking up a groin strain during the build-up to Saturday's FA Cup tie.

Worthington revealed after the match that he had a scan to prove the player was injured and stressed again yesterday that his much admired striker was on the sidelines because of fitness problems - and not because a big-money move away from Carrow Road was imminent.

“Dean hasn't been able to train since picking up the injury,” he said. “Hopefully he might be back with us later in the week, we'll just have to see. It's too early to say whether he will be fit for Plymouth.”

With Ashton on the sidelines, Thorne returned to the starting line up against the Hammers for the first time since picking up a thigh problem in last month's away win at Crewe.

The 32-year-old was inches from opening his Carrow Road account in the incident that led to Paul McVeigh's second half spot-kick.

“The cross was coming straight to my head and the defender (James Collins) has stuck his hand out right towards me,” he said. “We are good mates from being at Cardiff together and I swear he just wanted to stop me scoring. We swapped shirts afterwards and there was plenty of banter.

“We need to take the positives out of the game when we head back into the league, but the most important thing is to try and get that winning mentality again.

“I honestly expected their manager to rest a few more but he fielded a strong side, which showed us a lot of respect. We always knew it was going to be a tough draw, but it was really pleasing to see the young lads come on and I felt they did fantastic.”

As far as the latest speculation surrounding Ashton is concerned, it would appear that Portsmouth have now turned their attention elsewhere after baulking at City's asking price, which their manager Harry Redknapp described as £7m.

Pompey were reported to have had a bid for the striker accepted at the weekend, but that turned out to be nothing more than a wild rumour and they are now believed to be targeting Porto's South African international Benni McCarthy as their third new frontman, having already acquired the services of Benjani Mwaruwari and Emmanuel Olisadebe from Auxerre and Panathinaikos respectively.

Wigan, another Premiershiup outfit who have looked at Ashton in the past, are also unlikely to match the Canaries' asking price, which would appear to leave Lancashire neighbours Manchester City at the head of the queue.

Manager Stuart Pearce is believed to be looking for a new frontman, and was linked with a £10m double swoop for Ashton and Charlton midfielder Danny Murphy in one national newspaper last week.

The Canaries are thought to have received a number of inquires about their prized asset since the opening of the January transfer window - and it wouldn't come as a great surprise if Pearce decided to try his luck with a firm offer before the month was out.

Meanwhile a possible transfer target for Norwich emerged yesterday when Worthington revealed he was an admirer of 23-year-old Coventry frontman Gary McSheffrey, who has scored 10 goals this season - including one against the Canaries in the 2-2 draw at the Ricoh Arena back in November.

“He is a player that we like and one that we have made a phone call about, but that is as far as it has gone,” said the City boss.