transfer talk

Window of opportunity

January 7, 2010
By Norman Hubbard
(Archive)

It could be Ruud van Nistelrooy, Sergio Aguero or Edin Dzeko. Or perhaps Patrick Vieira, Ivan Cordoba or Maxi Rodriguez. The annual New Year search for reinforcements has begun. But sometimes the solutions can lie rather closer to home. Here is an XI of players outside the Premier League who could be seen in the top flight by the end of the month.

Jermaine Beckford: In demand
GettyImages / AlexLiveseyJermaine Beckford: In demand

Jermaine Beckford
Club: Leeds United
Age: 26
Position: Centre forward

Why? Goals, goals and more goals. Beckford has 74 in 112 starts for Leeds, the most famous eliminating Manchester United from the FA Cup on Sunday. He has been called temperamental and selfish and his critics insist he often requires several chances to score, but winners against Manchester United tend to highlight a forward's assets and his pace creates opportunities.

Would suit: Newcastle, who wanted the former windscreen fitter in the summer and have bid for him now. Whether his prolific form tempts one of the Premier League's goal-shy sides will be intriguing.

Price: More than £1.2 million, which is what Newcastle initially hoped to pay; indeed it may be twice as much. While chairman Ken Bates has typically insisted on a high fee, Beckford is in a strong bargaining position as his contract expires in the summer. But is the best option of all to stay at a Leeds team who appear on the up?

Kris Commons
Club: Derby County
Age: 26
Position: Left wing or second striker

Why? One of the most gifted technicians outside the top flight, Commons' long-range shooting produced a winner against Manchester United last season. The most inventive player at Derby, the Scotland international is able to beat a defender and deliver a telling cross. But after a superb first season at Pride Park, there are hints he is less happy there this year.

Would suit: Wolves, Birmingham and Wigan have all been linked. If Commons would be likely to understudy James McFadden at St Andrew's, first-team football is more realistic among the relegation contenders. But it can be hard to accommodate flair players in struggling sides.

Price: £3 million

Graham Dorrans
Club: West Bromwich Albion
Age: 22
Position: Centre midfield

Why? This has been a breakthrough season for Dorrans. Having spent the majority of Albion's promotion campaign on the bench, he has benefited from Jonathan Greening's departure to Fulham to establish himself as the creative central midfielder in Roberto di Matteo's side while chipping in with eight goals. Indeed, his impact is such that Robert Koren, long a fixture in the side, is out of the picture and a target for Wolves himself.

Would suit: Aston Villa, if the rumours are to be believed, though it is hard to see him displacing James Milner from Martin O'Neill's team. Everton and Birmingham have also been linked, though it is likely Dorrans would probably end up on the bench there as well.

Price: Though Dorrans only cost £100,000 in an outstanding piece of business by Tony Mowbray, Albion can name their price. Around £4 million has been suggested but with West Brom in the top two and comparatively secure, they have no need to sell unless the offer is particularly enticing. Signing a new long-term deal suggests Dorrans is in no rush to go.

Matty Fryatt has an eye for goal
GettyImages / CliveRoseMatty Fryatt has an eye for goal

Matty Fryatt
Club: Leicester
Age: 23
Position: Striker

Why? Fryatt is very sharp. He scored 32 goals last season and has 12 already in the current campaign. However, his record in League One for Leicester (27 goals in 46 games) is far better than his return in the Championship (22 in 103). Plus, he tends to play as the shorter sidekick to a target man, which is less easy to do in the Premier League where more teams favour a sole striker.

Would suit: Wigan, apparently. Roberto Martinez was briefly a team-mate at Walsall several years ago and, with Marlon King sacked and Jason Scotland yet to score, Athletic are reliant on Hugo Rodallega in attack.

Price: £3 million, though Leicester don't need to sell.

Adam Johnson
Club: Middlesbrough
Age: 22
Position: Left wing

Why? Despite Middlesbrough's indifferent form, he is probably the outstanding player in the Championship this season. Stewart Downing's long-time understudy has been both scorer and provider, with ten goals to accompany an ability to beat defenders and deliver telling crosses.

Would suit: Both the best and the rest, if the scouts at the Riverside this season are any indication. Sunderland, Wigan, Fulham and Everton have all been mentioned but a persistent link with Chelsea is the most high-profile rumour as they seek to add more youthful and more English players. If that seems far-fetched, it has been suggested Real Madrid are tracking Johnson. He could get in most teams in the lower half of the Premier League, though he surely isn't famous enough for Florentino Perez's liking.

Price: £6 million. It would be more but Johnson is another whose current deal expires in the summer and who has proved reluctant to sign another one.

Matthew Kilgallon
Club: Sheffield United
Age: 25
Position: Centre back

Why? A composed and committed defender whose partnership with Chris Morgan helped Sheffield United have the second best defensive record in the Championship last season. Unlike many lower-league centre backs, he could have the pace to cope with the quicker forwards of the top flight.

Would suit: Among Championship clubs, Newcastle and Nottingham Forest. Celtic is another possibility with Tony Mowbray seeming dissatisfied with his current defence. In the Premier League, Hull have been mentioned and manager Phil Brown has never properly replaced Michael Turner. Before Gary Megson was sacked, there were suggestions Bolton was another possible destination.

Price: £2 million. It is a familiar story, but Kilgallon's contract is up in the summer and Sheffield United are unlikely to realise his market value.

Joe Ledley
Club: Cardiff City
Age: 22
Position: Midfield

Why? The left-footed Wales international, who can play anywhere in the midfield, is out of contract in the summer and appears in no hurry to sign an extended deal. Comfortable in possession and an attacking threat, Ledley has been outscored and overshadowed by team-mate Peter Whittingham this season but after making his debut for his country at 18, his potential has long been apparent.

Would suit: Stoke have a long-standing interest and made an offer in August 2008. Wolves manager Mick McCarthy is also reported to be a fan. So was David Moyes, though that was before he signed Diniyar Bilyaletdinov while Hull's Phil Brown, who has watched Ledley, may lack the budget to buy him now.

Price: Ledley was valued at £6 million, but with his contract running out, that should be halved, if not reduced still further.

Victor Moses: Wanted on the continent too
GettyImages / JulianFinneyVictor Moses: Wanted on the continent too

Victor Moses
Club: Crystal Palace
Age: 19
Position: Left wing

Why? Moses is a quick and skilful winger who debuted for Palace at just 16. Given the shortage of young English (albeit born in Nigeria in this instance) attackers with the potential to play for title challengers, he has become the most coveted player outside the Premier League.

Would suit: Absolutely everyone, it would appear. The many clubs supposedly interested range from Barcelona, Liverpool and Manchester City to West Brom and Wigan. Precocious as Moses is, he is unlikely to take Lionel Messi's place at Camp Nou but with Robinho's long-term future possibly not in Manchester and Rafa Benitez's bench often distinctly unimpressive, he could be a squad player for either City or Liverpool.

Price: £5 million, if Palace have their way. Given that they have a habit of failing to pay their players and that Moses is for sale, buyers may be able to get him cheaper. A bidding war would suit Neil Warnock and Simon Jordan, though not Benitez.

Gary O'Neil
Club: Middlesbrough
Age: 26
Position: Centre midfield

Why? Energetic and committed, O'Neil is a box-to-box midfielder who has proven himself in the Premier League but is young enough to have his best years ahead of him. It has long been thought that the former Portsmouth player is homesick on Teesside.

Would suit: Fulham. Though Dickson Etuhu appears top of the pecking order, there has been no automatic choice to partner Danny Murphy since Jimmy Bullard joined Hull a year ago. In theory, the combination of a deep-lying playmaker and a hard-working accomplice should work well. O'Neil can also operate on the right, but Roy Hodgson has a surfeit of options there.

Price: Anything up to £5 million.

Sean St Ledger
Club: Preston
Age: 25
Position: Centre back.

Why? He is a defender who has impressed Giovanni Trapattoni enough to become a first choice in the Republic of Ireland side. He spent three months at Middlesbrough before Gordon Strachan decided not to buy him, though Boro forfeited the £2 million cost of the loan that was supposed to precede a £2 million deal.

Would suit: Premier League clubs with defensive difficulties. The cited reason for St Ledger's return to Deepdale was that he preferred the Preston area. Bolton and Burnley are two nearby top-flight sides who have found clean sheets a rarity.

Price: £4 million would be ideal for Preston because, after his stint at the Riverside, it would amount to £6 million for his services. Around £2.5 million may be more realistic.

Keiren Westwood
Club: Coventry City
Age: 25
Position: Goalkeeper

Why? Along with Newcastle's Steve Harper, he is probably the finest shot-stopper outside the top flight. Westwood was in the Championship's PFA Team of the Year last season while Coventry, like many clubs in their division, may need to sell.

Would suit: Everton and Sunderland, apparently. Given Tim Howard's fine form, the only vacancy at Goodison Park would be on the bench. Sunderland may be a more realistic prospect, but Steve Bruce's priorities appear to be elsewhere in the team. Injuries to other Premier League goalkeepers may prompt a bid from another team.

Price: Between £2 million and £3 million.