Atkinson, who thought he had secured the Welsh international striker on Tuesday for pounds 2.3m, was dismayed to find that the figure Ellis had faxed to Anfield was pounds 200,000 lower. The offer was rejected, and a Liverpool official was quoted in the Birmingham Post as saying: 'Ellis has made Atkinson look a bit of a fool.'
While Atkinson may have been inwardly seething, his belief that Saunders may still come to Villa Park ensured that diplomacy prevailed yesterday.
'I'm very hopeful that things could be resurrected next week,' he said. 'Obviously I'm disappointed because I thought we had him in the bag, but it could still be on.'
Both Atkinson and Ellis declined to comment on the unattributed remarks, though the manager showed that his sense of humour remains intact by crooning 'What kind of fool am I' as journalists filed out of his office. One Midlands manager likely to get his man is Brian Clough of Nottingham Forest. Clough expects to re-sign Nigel Jemson, the 24-year-old former Preston striker he sold to Sheffield Wednesday for pounds 800,000 a year ago this month, over the weekend, with the Northern Ireland international winger Kingsley Black going to Hillsborough in part exchange.
Black, also 24, cost Forest pounds 1.5m from Luton last September, but has failed to hold a place in Clough's starting line-up. The deal, tentatively agreed on Thursday after a reserve match at the City Ground, hinges on Wednesday's willingness to meet Forest's demand for a cash adjustment of pounds 500,000.
Ironically, Atkinson's search for a goalscorer led him to consider borrowing Jemson last month until the new regulation prohibiting loan deals between Premier League clubs was pointed out.
Forest will not sign Shalom Tickva, the Israeli international striker who has been on trial with them, from Standard Liege.
Chelsea's search for a left-back ended last night when they signed Charlton's Anthony Barness for pounds 350,000. Another full-back who was unexpectedly promoted was David Bardsley, the QPR right-back, who was called into the England squad by Graham Taylor, his former manager at Watford, for the international against Spain on Wednesday following the withdrawal of Liverpool's Rob Jones. Should Bardsley play, he will not have to face the talents of Real Madrid's Emilio Butragueno and Manuel Sanchis, both omitted from the Spanish squad.
Injuries have forced Mick McCarthy, the Millwall player-manager, and Tony Cascarino, the Chelsea striker, out of the Republic of Ireland squad for the next week's World Cup qualifier against Latvia at Lansdowne Road.Reuse content