Football: Villa's Sutton bid rebuffed

ASTON VILLA are on fire, to use the vernacular, and John Gregory has pounds 20m burning a hole in his pocket. These two facts ought to be sufficient for the Premiership pacesetters to land the top-class finisher they want, yet Chris Sutton has joined the burgeoning list of strikers the Villa manager has tried and failed to sign.

Blackburn Rovers confirmed yesterday that Sutton, a pounds 5m capture from Norwich by Kenny Dalglish four years ago, was "not for sale at any price". Villa, who had been prepared to lavish almost half their transfer kitty on a player whose tally of 18 League goals last season was equalled only by Michael Owen, must now decide whether to test the Lancashire club's resolve with a higher offer.

Ewood Park appears to have more than its share of unsettled individuals. Tim Sherwood, their championship-winning captain, is anxious to follow Colin Hendry out, while it is said within the game that Blackburn's unglamorous image and location make it difficult to attract players of the requisite quality, even with Jack Walker's wallet to woo them.

Birmingham, despite being forever stigmatised by Crossroads and Spaghetti Junction, is altogether better placed. Indeed, Gregory's bold attempts to recruit Alan Shearer, Andy Cole and now Sutton have foundered solely on their respective clubs' reluctance to sell.

The pounds 6.75m purchase of a current England player, Paul Merson, from Middlesbrough and Alan Thompson's preference for Villa over Leeds when the pounds 4.5m midfielder was leaving Bolton, demonstrated Villa's pulling power.

Shearer has reputedly been impressed both by Gregory and what he has heard about Villa from Gareth Southgate and Merson at international get- togethers. However, if he does leave Newcastle, as seems increasingly likely, the attractions of the West Midlands might rate rather lower than the financial clout of Italy, Spain or even Manchester United.

Talking of whom, Gregory was keen to make Cole part of the deal which deprived him of Dwight Yorke in August and created the current vacancy. Alex Ferguson, aware that United's commitments at home and in Europe meant they would need back-up to the Tobagan, was equally determined that Cole should stay. Circumstances have already vindicated his decision.

By turning to the 25-year-old Sutton, who famously antagonised Glenn Hoddle by refusing to play for England's B team last season, Gregory underlined his intention to buck the current trend by buying British.

He also underlined Villa's title ambitions and said yesterday: "The chairman [Doug Ellis] and I agree that the time to strengthen is from a position of strength and we shall certainly be trying to do that."

Villa stand six points clear in the Premiership, but their exalted status has been achieved largely on the back of defensive solidity and goalkeeping excellence. They have scored only 10 times in eight matches.

Gregory's attacking options are limited to Merson, who is best as a link man rather than an out-and-out striker; Julian Joachim, who has threatened to fulfil the potential he showed at Leicester without scoring regularly; and Stan Collymore.

Collymore's hat-trick against weak Norwegian opposition in the Uefa Cup last week persuaded the watching Alan McInally - who scored 18 goals before Christmas for Villa a decade ago - to suggest that the manager could "put his money away".

But the pounds 7m man was ineffectual again at Coventry on Saturday, prompting Gregory to move for the more consistent Sutton. Should the player press for permission to speak to Villa, Blackburn's initial rebuff may not be the end of the matter.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
Life and Style
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

Ashdown Group: Head of IT - Hertfordshire - £90,000

£70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions