GREGORY PONDERING HUGHES BID?
By Ciaran Baynes. Last Updated: January 1, 1970 1:00am
ASTON VILLA boss John Gregory is yet to decide whether to make a bid for Croatian striker Bosko Balaban and may be considering rivalling Midlands rivals Coventry and Birmingham in making an approach for West Brom striker Lee Hughes.
Villa will have to sign Balaban before Thursday if he is to play in Europe for them this season, as his side Dinamo Zagreb face Estonia's Flora Tallin in a Uefa Cup qualifier.
The 22-year-old's agent claimed that the Birmingham outfit had agreed to sign the player last week and although this was premature, Gregory admitted he may still move to Villa Park before the opening game of the season against Tottenham.
"I still want to add to my squad before the season begins and Balaban is one of the players we are monitoring," Gregory said.
"But at this stage, we have to acknowledge that there is now a very important Cup final for us to win. I am still optimistic that we will have at least one new player before we start at Spurs."
Meanwhile, Gregory was at The Hawthorns on Saturday to see Sunderland beat West Brom 3-0 and although it has been assumed that he was there to watch Black Cats ace Kevin Phillips, The Baggies' carrot-topped assassin seems a more likely target.
Hughes, who is on the transfer list at West Brom after turning down a new contract in the summer, has been the subject of £4 million-plus bids from Coventry and Birmingham, although The Baggies are unlikely to accept any less than £5 million for their most-prized asset.
Albion club captain Derek McInnes has urged Hughes to make a decision whether to stay for the entire campaign or leave before next week's start to the season.
"We've had this hanging over us all week ever since Lee was put on the transfer list," said McInnes.
"But if he's going to move, then I would like him to go as soon as possible. If he moves and we get some good money for him, then good.
"At the same time, Lee's goals would be a massive asset for this club. It's the uncertainty I don't want."
The Baggies may opt not to sell Hughes in the opening weeks of the campaign as Jason Roberts will miss the first two months with a broken toe.