The chain of events which nearly saw Sheffield United's Ched Evans join tomorrow’s opponents Bolton Wanderers before last night’s transfer deadline can be revealed for the first time after it emerged Sunderland also considered signing the centre-forward
Evans, who has spent the first half of the season on loan at Fleetwood Town, was the subject of interest from both Phil Parkinson's side and the Stadium of Light ahead of the 11pm cut-off point, with officials at the latter discussing a permanent deal.
When Sunderland withdrew their bid, after arranging and then aborting a number of other proposed agreements with clubs across the English Football League, Wanderers stepped into the breach by offering Evans the chance to join them on loan.
But because their approach was received during the final 24 hours of the window, United and the former Wales international required Fleetwood's permission to cut short the player's stay at Highbury.
When that was not forthcoming, Parkinson was forced to admit defeat in his search for more firepower as Wanderers attempt to steer themselves out of the relegation zone.
Had United, Fleetwood and Evans' representatives been able to come to an arrangement then the 30-year-old would have replaced Christian Doidge at the University of Bolton Stadium following his return to Forest Green Rovers.
"There was interest from Sunderland," Chris Wilder, the United manager, confirmed. "Ched expressed an interest in going there and he spoke to them. Ched also spoke to Bolton too."
United, who are third in the Championship table, received Sunderland's approach on Tuesday. Although they are believed to have been happy with the fee Fleetwood's League One rivals offered, officials at Bramall Lane then began to suspect their counterparts in the North-East were simultaneously negotiating with at least three other potential targets before taking a final decision on one.
Wigan Athletic's Will Grigg later moved to Sunderland for a reported £4m.
"Ched is our player," Wilder continued. "He'll play, hopefully, 18 or 20 more games for Fleetwood and it's better that he's playing rather than not. We're happy with the numbers here."
Barring a surprise change in circumstances, United’s willingness to hold talks with Sunderland suggests Evans, who embarked upon his second spell with the club two years ago, faces an uncertain future in South Yorkshire.
Wanderers have been linked with former Hibernian centre-half Efe Ambrose, who is available on a free transfer after rejecting a contract offer to stay at Easter Road. But Parkinson, whose employers rejected bids for Erhun Oztumer and Luca Connell, remains short of attacking options after Doidge was recalled to The New Lawn.
Defender Callum Connolly, aged 21, did complete a loan move to Wanderers after being recalled from Wigan by his parent club Everton.