West Bromwich Albion's pursuit of Tony Mowbray, with a view to appointing him as their manager, has aroused anger at Hibernian and could extinguish any hope of a deal between the clubs.
Rod Petrie, the Edinburgh club's chairman, has made it clear that he wants to keep Mowbray as his own manager and is anxious to stand firm against Albion's advances.
Albion took the surprising step of confirming, via their website on Tuesday night, that they have approached Hibernian with a plan to take Mowbray to The Hawthorns as the replacement to Bryan Robson.
Petrie was so incensed that Albion should make their interest public that the chairman yesterday made a statement of his own.
"West Bromwich Albion have made a very public enquiry about our manager," Petrie said. "It is unprecedented that another club would name our manager on their website. However, their website makes it clear that Tony is only one of a number of people they wish to interview."
It is understood that Albion would need to pay Hibernian compensation of at least #120,000 to acquire the services of Mowbray - if, indeed, he would want to move to The Hawthorns - but Petrie wants more than that.
Jeremy Peace, the Albion chairman, is keeping his options open and has already been linked with moves for Dave Jones (Cardiff City), Micky Adams (Coventry City) and Steve Cotterill (Burnley). For now, Nigel Pearson is the caretaker manager.
Albion have been searching for a new boss since Bryan Robson left "by mutual consent" last month after only eight league matches of the season.
Petrie can understand Albion's interest in Mowbray but is clearly disappointed at the way in which they have conducted their business over the matter.
"Based on my discussions with their chairman, Jeremy Peace, it appears that Hibernian's desire to retain Tony is stronger than West Bromwich Albion's interest in adding a candidate to a selection process," Petrie said.
"That means we need to try to avoid the distractions and focus on the rest of our season, starting Sunday [when city rivals Hearts visit Easter Road for the season's first Edinburgh derby.]
However, it is believed that the move could still happen, despite Petrie's hope that he has warned off the English club. "As far as possible, it is business as usual," Petrie said.
A spokesman for the Hibernian Supporters Association says that Mowbray should be allowed to talk to Albion about the vacant position at The Hawthorns.
Mowbray, aged 42 and in his third season in charge, rejected the chance last May to take over as manager of Ipswich Town.
Mowbray and his assistant, Mark Venus, agreed a new 12-month rolling contract last month, although that does not come into effect until the end of the season.
The HSA's Frank Dougan believes that Mowbray should be allowed to shape his own destiny.
"If the club do not let Tony speak to West Brom, then it could lead to a lot of resentment," Dougan said. "Hibs should allow him to speak to them and see who he prefers, West Brom or us. And, hopefully, he prefers Hibs.
"But we have to realise Tony has ambitions to get to the top level just like players do and I don't believe in holding anyone back if they want to better themselves.
"If you have a good reputation, then other clubs will always be tempted. When he was linked with Ipswich, I wished him all the best because I really thought he would be tempted by that job. I don't want him to go and, if he stays, I will be very happy.
"He is a promising young manager and the football he has served up for us has been phenomenal. I just hope he continues doing that. I don't know if he will, though - the only person who knows is Tony Mowbray."
However, Dougan does not expect the current air of confusion in Leith to have any effect on the players in the build-up to Sunday's game.
"The players are all professionals and will be ready for the game," Dougan said. "It should not bother them because these things happen in football and they just have to get on with it."
* Koumas on target for Wales - click here.
* Peace defends decision to sue Appleton's surgeon - click here.