Aston Villa manager David O'Leary is still reconciling himself to an inactive January in the transfer market despite having to let Eirik Bakke return to Leeds United.
The Yorkshire club insisted that Bakke could only leave on a permanent basis, but O'Leary was told by chairman Doug Ellis that there were insufficient funds. While that may free O'Leary to find another player on loan, he doubts he can find a replacement at a suiitable price.
"I don't think there is really much out there within our scope," he said yesterday. "What we have is what we'll go with for the rest of the season.
"The bottom line is that I wanted to keep Eirik but I was informed by the chairman on Tuesday that he had to go back, for financial reasons.
"That came as a blow to me. It stunned me. I wasn't expecting to lose one.
"He's a lovely lad, who's popular with the other players who wanted him to stay.
"He's come in and done a good job and wherever he goes now, he'll prove a good player but it leaves us with just Steven Davis and Gavin McCann in central midfield. That's our options and we haven't got the finances to go out and buy anybody."
Despite the ongoing speculation over the proposed Villa Park takeover, O'Leary is insistent that the long, drawn-out nature of proceedings has not been a distraction within the camp.
"There's a great spirit in the dressing room," he said. "The only time I heard any takeover talk was before the Manchester City game when the story broke and you heard the lads [discussing it] on the coach on the Monday going to the game. But it didn't affect us that night and it certainly hasn't affected us since."
Tomorrow, O'Leary finds himself pitted against a Tottenham Hot-spur side who are clearly on a much firmer financial footing that Villa.
"They refloated the club and did a share issue and it has enabled them to buy in quality players. It has been a massive investment but it's been a good investment," he said.
"They've bought in some experienced players, but they've also bought in good, young English players, Tom Huddlestone, Michael Dawson, Calum Davenport, Aaron Lennon, eight players all for £1 million or so on the basis that if, say, four come off then it's a big success and they can then cut their losses.
"I fancied Tottenham to be in the top five at the start of the season and I think they'll stay there."
O'Leary may have to wait a week before having striker Kevin Phillips back in first-team contention, despite his fine goal for the reserves against Birmingham City on Wednesday night.
Tomorrow is also too soon for Freddie Bouma, but Mark Delaney is fit, having missed training on Monday with a jarred ankle, while O'Leary also has Gareth Barry back from suspension, waiting to return in place of Jlloyd Samuel.
While Villa may not be able to buy, that has not stopped players leaving. Wayne Henderson yesterday completed his cut-price move to Championship side Brighton, after a late hitch over agents' fees was smoothed over.
Having passed a medical, the former Republic of Ireland Under-21 goalkeeper has signed a twoand-a-half-year contract with the Seagulls.
Villa will bank £20,000 now, plus a further £15,000 if Brighton stay in the Championship this season, with the potential added bonus of sell-on fees to come.
But Henderson, who had a successful time on loan with Brighton during the first three months of the season, may have to wait to make his mark. He will only be on the bench for tomorrow's daunting trip to Sheffield United.
Villa are also close to letting another of their younger players go out on loan, reserve striker Sam Williams having been lined up for an initial month with League Two outfit Wrexham. ..SUPL: