Chris Sutton is poised for a dramatic return to the Premiership with Birmingham City. Everton and Portsmouth were believed to be heading the race for his signature, but Steve Bruce has stolen a march on his rivals and looks set to pull off a major coup by luring Sutton to St Andrew's.
Sutton was in Birmingham for talks with the Birmingham City manager yesterday and, while Bruce faces stiff competition from his relegation rivals, he is unusually persuasive in contract negotiations.
It is believed that the initial deal would comprise a short-term contract until the end of the season. Thereafter, Sutton would be free to talk to any club, with Birmingham being high on the list of suitors.
Sutton has only six months remaining on his contract at Park-head, would certainly come within Birmingham's price range and fits the bill of an 'impact' signing that Bruce craves.
Bruce will not be handed a huge transfer kitty this month and, if a cut-price deal can be arranged, it would leave him room to manoeuvre to bolster his squad.
The 32-year-old would be an ideal acquisition for Bruce as he would provide him with options at both ends of the pitch.
Sutton has scored 191 goals in his professional career but is also equally adept at centre-half.
Bruce has said his team will adopt whatever style is necessary in order to fight their way out of the relegation zone and Sutton will provide him with extra firepower alongside Emile Heskey.
If Bruce pulls his customary rabbit out of the hat with Sutton, it could hasten the departure of Walter Pandiani. Real Mallorca are waiting to sign him, but Bruce was reluctant to let the Uruguayan striker leave until he had found a suitable replacement.
However, when Pandiani does go, it will generate more transfer funds to freshen Blues' struggling squad.
This would allow Bruce to chase his other targets such as Preston's David Nugent and Robert Earn-shaw, although the prospect of taking the Welsh international striker away from relegation rivals West Bromwich Albion appears slim.
If Sutton puts pen to paper at St Andrew's today, he certainly arrives with an impressive pedigree.
He scored 43 goals in 127 games for Norwich before becoming the inaugural £5million transfer between British clubs when Blackburn Rovers secured his services in July 1994.
He formed the formidable SAS partnership with Alan Shearer that guided Blackburn to their only Premiership title in his first season and made his one and only international appearance for England in 1997 against Cameroon.
However, Sutton is no shrinking violet and fell out with then-England manager Glenn Hoddle after refusing to play for the B squad, which effectively curtailed his international career.
Nevertheless, Bruce has never shied away from working with strong characters and Sutton would be an influential voice in the dressing-room.
A £10 m move to Chelsea followed in July 1999 with his pre-season debut, ironically being at St Andrew's.
However, 12 months later he was on his way north of the border for a Scottish record fee of £6m and has since lifted three Scottish Premier League titles. He has made only ten appearances under manager Gordon Strachan this season, scoring two goals, and would relish the challenge of keeping Birmingham in the top flight.
Meanwhile, Mario Melchiot is keen to end speculation about his own future and concentrate on the remainder of Birmingham's relegation battle.
The Dutch full-back, who scored his first goal of the season against Wigan on Monday, is out of contract in six months and has repeatedly been linked with a host of other clubs.
However Melchiot, who expects to recover from his persistent thigh injury in time for next week's Premiership clash with Charlton Athletic, says he is fully focused on the job in hand; keeping Birmingham in the Premiership.
He said: "The most important thing for me at present isn't what I want but Birmingham City.
"People always want to talk about my future and sometimes that isn't respectful to the club, as it is a really important time for Birmingham at present. Don't get me wrong, I want the best for myself and I will do the best for myself.
"If we can bring in someone to the club that is better than what we already have, that is good but if you bring in only something of what we already have, then you might as well stick together as we have got something solid. The manager knows what we need and that is exactly why I came to this club."