At this rate, Ugo Ehiogu may have to accept he is destined never to start a match for West Bromwich Albion. Just as the former England central defender was poised to re-sign yesterday for his first club, 15 years after controversially forsaking them for Aston Villa, Middlesbrough moved to recall him as cover for the injured Gareth Southgate.
The farcical turn of events was in keeping with Ehiogu's earlier career with Albion, such as it was. He joined the club from school in Hackney but, after only two substitute appearances for them as a teenager, he was lured to Villa Park in 1991. Ron Atkinson had spotted his potential and signed him in a cut-price deal that exploited a contractual technicality and led to bad blood between the neighbouring clubs.
This time, according to his agent, Steve Kutner, Ehiogu had passed a medical at The Hawthorns and agreed terms with Albion before Middlesbrough began prevaricating. "Ugo doesn't want to go back, despite what may have happened," complained Kutner. "In his head he is an Albion player and he was gearing up to play for them [away to Wigan Athletic on Sunday] at the weekend."
Chris Riggott has edged above Ehiogu in the pecking order on Teesside. However, with the former Derby defender (dead leg) being joined on the casualty list by Southgate, Ehiogu may find himself facing Thierry Henry at Arsenal on Saturday unless the clubs can resolve the situation.
The deal's possible collapse means Albion may have to begin searching for another centre-back who could go straight in at the JJB Stadium. Thomas Gaardsoe is out for several weeks after a groin operation, while Neil Clement suffered a depressed fracture to the side of the head in the recent defeat by Villa and will not be available until next week.
Bryan Robson, the Albion manager, has tried to clear the decks for new recruits by circulating the names of players he is prepared to offload - Russell Hoult, Lloyd Dyer, Andy Johnson and Riccardo Scimeca. Jason Koumas can also leave if any club can meet Albion's asking price.
Steve McClaren, the Middlesbrough manager, back-tracked on Ehiogu when it became clear that the player's defensive partner for many years at both Villa and the Riverside Stadium, Southgate, might be out for three months. Southgate sustained a suspected stress fracture of the ankle in the FA Cup tie at Nuneaton Borough last Saturday. McClaren's squad was already diminished by injuries to George Boateng (ankle) and Frank Queudrue (knee) and the suspension of Emanuel Pogatez.
Jlloyd Samuel, who has played only one game for Aston Villa since October and has spoken of seeking a "fresh challenge", is expected to be recalled against West Ham on Saturday because of the absence of the injured Wilfred Bouma and suspended Gareth Barry.
Wolves are considering whether to increase their offer for Tomasz Frankowski, the Poland international striker who plays for the Spanish club Elche, after a £700,000 bid was rejected.Reuse content