Sharp set to snub Canaries

CHRIS LAKEY Norwich City are set to miss out in the race to sign big summer target Billy Sharp.The £2m pursuit was all but over yesterday when last season's top league scorer in England snubbed City and agreed to join relegated Sheffield United.


Norwich City are set to miss out in the race to sign big summer target Billy Sharp.

The £2m pursuit was all but over yesterday when last season's top league scorer in England snubbed City and agreed to join relegated Sheffield United.

The Blades made the announcement that they had got their man in mid-afternoon, although Scunthorpe were still insisting last night that no bid had been accepted and that Sharp was still their player.

"We have given permission for Billy to talk to a number of clubs,” said Scunthorpe general manager Jamie Hammond. "Sheffield United have not made any offer for Billy as far as I am aware.”

Norwich, Wolves and Sheffield Wednesday have all made offers, with City's the one that came closest to meeting the valuation put on the player by Scunthorpe, who are looking for something approaching £3m, including add-ons. Blades chairman Terry Robinson said: "Everything has been agreed, we just have to formally conclude the deal with Scunthorpe.

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"I can't disclose the length of his contract or the transfer fee at this stage, but we will be making a statement in due course. The news has only come out because he's told Sheffield Wednesday he's not going there and we've had to make a brief announcement. We're just waiting to finalise everything. There's a possibility that a couple of players could be going the other way as part of the deal.”

Scunthorpe clearly don't share that view - while the Canaries were also keeping an open mind last night.

“We have obviously seen some speculation in the media suggesting that Sheffield United feel they are close to concluding a deal to take Billy Sharp to Bramall Lane,” said chief executive Neil Doncaster. “However as Scunthorpe's official website is carryng a story stating categorically that Sharp is still their player we have got nothing further to say on the situation at this time.”

But it seems inevitable that Sharp, pictured below, is now set for a return to the club where he started his career - and where £10m worth of Premiership parachute money could be supplemented by a windfall from United's Plc owner Kevin McCabe's £850 million sale of the family-owned Scarborough Property Company this week.

Canaries boss Peter Grant had appeared to be in pole position when Sharp came to Norfolk last week to take a look at what City had to offer. But he refused to commit himself, visiting Wolves and Sheffield Wednesday before United's late entry into the race.

Sharp's decision to turn down Grant's advances will be a huge blow to his rebuilding plans and means he now has to look elsewhere in an effort to take some of the goal scoring responsibilities off the shoulders of Robert Earnshaw.

An inquiry has been made at Southend for Freddy Eastwood, but City have been quoted £3m for the 23-year-old - around double what they would be prepared to pay.

And while Colchester's Jamie Cureton is available for up to £750,000, Grant may consider the want-away former City player is too similar in style to Earnshaw.

Earnshaw's own future at Carrow Road is still open to question, with Charlton reportedly interested - and if they complete the sale of Darren Bent to Spurs today, Alan Pardew could be tempted to part with some of the reported £13m transfer fee to take the Wales international to The Valley.

A source suggested yesterday that Earnshaw was indeed on Pardew's shopping list - along with a whole host of other players.

Sharp clearly believes the chance to prove himself for a second time at his hometown club was too good to turn down.

United sold Sharp to Scunthorpe for £100,000 and under the terms of that deal are entitled to 25pc of any future transfer fee for the player.

Sharp is one of English football's hottest properties after finishing the season as the Coca-Cola Football League's leading goalscorer.

His 32 goals in all competitions last season helped fire Scunthorpe to the Championship.

When asked whether the decision to allow Sharp to move to Scunthorpe in the first place had been a mistake, Robinson added: "No. The agreement probably gave him the opportunity to develop far faster than he would have here.

"It shows probably that the system and development of young players in this country falls down at the middle stage, where developing players do not or cannot get enough competitive football.

"To do that they have to go out on loan or transfer to a club where they do get regular games.

"Billy did not want to leave, he just wanted the chance to play first-team football and I must say Scunthorpe have done a great job."