Newcastle United's director of football Joe Kinnear attempted to sign a player already contracted to the club, according to the Sunday People.
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Newcastle then endured a frustrating summer transfer window, with Loic Remy's arrival on loan from Queens Park Rangers their only high-profile signing.
A report in the Sunday People claims that while attending Birmingham's 3-1 Capital One Cup win over Swansea in September, Kinnear was impressed with the performance of midfielder Shane Ferguson.
However, Ferguson, 22, is on loan at Birmingham from Newcastle, having joined the Championship club on a season-long deal in the summer.
A City source told Sunday People Sport: "Ferguson had a particularly good game that night and Joe Kinnear told one of our officials he was interested in signing him.
"At first our guy thought he was joking but then he realised Kinnear did not know Ferguson was already a Newcastle player."
Ferguson has made 23 league appearances for Newcastle and is a Northern Ireland international.