NICK Blackman, the Sheffield United striker, could become the subject of a bidding war involving three clubs with Reading poised to enter the race for his signature.
Sources close to the Madejski Stadium last night claimed that Brian McDermott has become the latest manager to monitor the 23-year-old following an impressive start to the season at Bramall Lane.
Crystal Palace, whose representatives watched Saturday’s FA Cup tie between United and McDermott’s side, fired the first shot in what could become a fierce battle by lodging a £1m bid on the eve of the League One club’s defeat.
However, news that Reading are also monitoring Blackman has dealt a blow to both their hopes of acquiring the former Blackburn Rovers marksman and also United’s efforts to retain his services.
McDermott, whose team advanced courtesy of goals from Noel Hunt (2), Mikele Leigertwood and Garath McCleary, could assemble an even more lucrative package given Reading’s Premier League status while the prospect of top-flight football would prove difficult for the player himself to resist.
The situation has been further complicated by suggestions that Blackman, who has scored 14 times since his close season move from Ewood Park, is being courted by another as yet unidentified club.
United will attempt to sign a replacement should he leave before Thursday ’s transfer deadline.
Blackman’s impressive start to last weekend’s fourth round tie, combined with Palace’s presence at the ground, is said to have alerted McDermott to the possibility of launching a counter offer although it remains unclear whether Reading will pursue their interest.
Meanwhile, Diego De Girolamo will be asked to fill the void created by Danny Philliskirk ’s departure.
Philliskirk’s contract with United was terminated by mutual consent on Friday.
De Girolamo, an Italy under-18 international, agreed professional terms with United three months ago and is rated as one of the most promising young talents in the English game.
Philliskirk, aged 21, counts Oldham Athletic among his admirers.