Sheffield Wednesday’s chances of landing Neil Mellor have been boosted by Preston’s relegation from the Championship and talks could develop into a flagship signing, writes Alan Biggs.
Mellor’s current wages are believed to have been cut by 25% under a drop clause in his Deepdale contract which has a year to run.
The former Liverpool striker heads Gary Megson’s all-British six-strong summer hit-list.
And the Telegraph understands half the recruitment drive is an inside job - with three of the wanted men already at Hillsborough.
Loan defenders Danny Batth (Wolves) and Rob Jones (Scunthorpe) make up the triumverate after stiffening the Owls backline in a revival Megson wants to extend with a fifth successive home victory in Saturday’s Hillsborough finale against Exeter.
Mellor’s future is in sharp focus as North End face cutting their wage bill for life in League One. Preston boss Phil Brown is believed to have told the 28-year-old that he wants to keep him.
But it would be no surprise if Mellor became one of Wednesday’s first transfer coups of the summer after his 20 goal haul this season.
With the clout of owner Milan Mandaric behind him, Megson is in a position to force the issue because the player is still on wages that Preston might struggle to sustain at the lower level.
The fact that he will command a fee is another likely swaying influence, as is Wednesday’s ability to pay.
And the final clincher is that Mellor, son of former Hillsborough midfielder Ian and a fan of the club, wants to complete a permanent move after a season on loan.
His year has been a personal success, if not a collective one. As in previous seasons at Preston, Mellor’s appearances have been rationed, suggesting a query over his general fitness.
Megson has raised the question of getting him fitter and Mellor has always looked a little on the bulky side.
But there is no doubting his quality or, indeed, his output of goals. He has the pace to get behind defenders and proven finishing ability.
It all fuels the belief that, having performed consistently under two managerial regimes, Mellor can be even more effective with a Megson-style pre-season under his belt.
When Megson handed his hit-list to Mandaric, the assumption may have been that all the targets would be from outside the club.
But Mellor will have been one of the six - among others already stationed at Hillsborough. Megson has made a point of lauding the defensive stability provided by centre backs Batth and Jones.