The prospects of Lee Bowyer playing for a West Midlands club next season evaporated last night as Birmingham City admitted defeat in their quest to sign the Newcastle United midfielder and Aston Villa denied speculation linking them with the 28-year-old.
Bowyer, who played for Villa manager David O'Leary at Leeds United, is poised to leave St James's Park this summer following his dramatic on-pitch fight with teammate Kieron Dyer in April.
However, Bowyer is now said to be wary of moving to Birmingham because of the city's large Asian population, despite being acquitted of all charges relating to an alleged attack on an Asian student four years ago in Leeds.
Villa said yesterday that the former Charlton apprentice was not on their list of transfer targets following speculation to the contrary.
"It's absolute rubbish, there's nothing in that at all," said O'Leary, who arguably presided over Bowyer's best form of his career.
Villa's operations director Steve Stride added: "We're currently doing everything we can to sign the players identified by David and Lee Bowyer is definitely not on our list."
With Villa not interested and the player snubbing St Andrew's, Birmingham co-owner David Sullivan now expects the attacking midfielder to switch to London.
But Sullivan believes it was Bowyer's concerns over his personal safety rather than other factors --including an internet petition by some Birmingham fans - which caused him to reject manager Steve Bruce's advances.
Sullivan said: " We thought Steve had talked him [Bowyer] round but he was genuinely worried that one night there would be ten Asians waiting outside his house ready to kick seven bells out of him.
"We gave it our best shot but when he spoke to Steve right at the start, his first question was 'what about the big Asian population in Birmingham?"'
Sullivan's comments end Blues' pursuit of Bowyer and another Midland transfer saga appears to be reaching a conclusion after Henri Camara's agent, Willie McKay, predicted the Senegal striker would leave Wolverhampton Wanderers within the next week.
Camara spent last season on loan at Celtic and Southampton after refusing to play in the Championship following Wolves' relegation from the Premiership and the 28-year-old has no intention of returning for the start of their pre-season training on Monday.
McKay said: "There are three clubs interested in signing Henri and I think he will be gone by the time Wolves' pre-season training begins."
Portsmouth and Blackburn are reportedly keen on Camara but Wolves' chief executive, Jez Moxey, says no-one will get the player cheaply.
"Camara has made his position clear and it is best for everyone that he moves on," he said. "But he will not be sold for a deal which does not satisfy Wolverhampton Wanderers."
Meanwhile, Coventry City striker Gary McSheffrey, who was out of contract, yesterday signed a three-year deal. The 22-year-old Coventry-born player said: "I had a couple of offers from other clubs but I know I've made the right choice."