Irvine close to transfer breakthrough

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Alan Irvine admits he is getting closer to making a breakthrough on the transfer market, with Preston now linked with at least four players.

Norwich City striker Chris Brown, Everton's teenage midfielder Bjarni Vidarsson and Aberdeen contract rebels Michael Hart and Barry Nicholson are all being touted as possible Preston North End signings.

But Irvine is refusing to name names in case his targets are hijacked by other clubs.

"I think we are making progress on a few things," he said. "But deals are so complicated these days that I am frightened to say anything until it actually happens.

"So many things can go wrong between now and completing things.

"All I can say is we are working hard at it and I think we are getting closer on a few things."

Canaries frontman Brown is said to be heading to Deepdale for talks over the next 24 hours after it was reported in East Anglia that the two clubs had reached agreement over a 350,000 fee.

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Vidarsson, 19, told an Icelandic newspaper on Saturday that a loan move to North End was one option open to him.

And newspapers in Scotland are linking North End with right-back Hart and winger Barry Nicholson after the pair were among four Dons players refusing to sign new deals at Pittodrie.

Irvine would not be drawn on who his targets were when he faced the media after Saturday's FA Cup win over Scunthorpe.

But he did say he was looking to make signings sooner rather than later with his squad down to the bare bones following the departures of three strikers last week and an injury to Billy Jones.

"We need to get players in very quickly," he said.

Click the play button above to hear Alan Irvine talk about transfers.

"But we need to get players in within our budget both in terms of transfer fees and wages.

"We had a situation on Saturday where we had just 17 players to choose from.

Obviously 16 of them were stripped. The one who wasn't – Jason Jarrett – hasn't played for a considerable amount of time.

"It wasn't too difficult to pick the 16. I would like it to be a bit more difficult than that."

Brown, 23, has been out of favour at Carrow Road since Glenn Roeder took charge at the end of October.

Speculation about an impending move to Preston increased at the weekend when he was withdrawn from the FA Cup tie against Bury. One national newspaper claimed North End had agreed a price with Norwich and the deal would now hinge on talks over personal terms, with the 6ft 3in player due in Lancashire today to meet Irvine and chairman Derek Shaw.

Brown, who joined Norwich from Sunderland for 325,000 in January last year, has scored only one goal in 16 starts for the Canaries.

>> Preston NE 1 Scunthorpe 0

Vidarsson has yet to make his Premier League debut at Everton, although he has figured in the UEFA Cup this season with a substitute appearance in the 3-2 win over AZ Alkmaar just before Christmas.

In an interview with Icelandic paper Morgunblaoio at the weekend, he is reported to have said: "It is not clear whether I go on loan or not, but it is clear that I need to be playing.

"Going out on loan in the best option, be it to Preston or

another team."

Vidarsson has already had one loan spell during his time at Goodison Park – he made six appearances for Bournemouth last season, scoring one goal.

Irvine knows the player well, having seen him come through the ranks at Everton.

Irvine has also been showing a keen interest in the contracts situation at Aberdeen according to papers north of the border.

Four players whose deals are up in the summer have rejected new ones and will be able to leave for nothing at the end of the season

unless the Dons decide to cash in now.

It is being reported that North End have already tabled an offer for 27-year-old Glaswegian Hart, as have Championship rivals Plymouth.

And Irvine is also said to be showing a keen interest in the situation of Scotland international Nicholson, who began his playing career at Rangers and moved to Pittodrie from Dunfermline in 2005 for 250,000.

Away from the transfer market, the Preston boss was delighted to see his struggling side put their league worries to one side at the weekend to progress to the fourth round of the FA Cup.

A goal from Simon Whaley just after half-time settled a tie between two sides in the Championship relegation zone.

Later Irvine said: "It was a very important win for us. The FA Cup is a special competition, so I am delighted we went through to the next round.

"I knew Scunthorpe would test us. Every Championship game I have been involved in has been very close and this one could have gone either way.

"Obviously the lads are feeling an awful lot better than they were last week."

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Irvine paid special tribute to central defender Youl Mawene who returned to action after spending the Christmas and New Year period at his young son's bedside in hospital.

"To have your baby in intensive care for the length of time that Youl has, is a terrible situation to be in, so Youl deserves full marks for the way he has returned to the side," said Irvine.

"What he has had to go through every parent would dread. We are delighted for him, first and foremost because his son is getting better."