Championship side Birmingham City are not currently pursuing a move for Heart of Midlothian centre-back John Souttar ahead of the January transfer window, according to Birmingham Live.
The 25-year-old has been linked with several second-tier sides in recent months, with the Blues, Stoke City, Blackburn Rovers, Millwall, Middlesbrough, Luton Town, Queens Park Rangers, Blackpool and Preston North End all reported to be interested in his signature according to the Daily Record.
As per the same report, the Scotland international looks set to reject interest from the likes of Rangers and Celtic with the central defender preferring to try his luck in England, after spending the entirety of his career north of the border thus far.
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This is good news for another Championship outfit in Nottingham Forest, who are also reportedly in the race to try and secure his signature with his contract at Tynecastle Park running out next summer.
His contract situation is why Hearts could be willing to let him go for just £500,000 in January, despite becoming one of the first names on the teamsheet under Robbie Neilson this season after battling back from a series of severe injuries in recent years.
Football League World understands Stoke are currently in pole position to land the 25-year-old with his brother Harry already at the bet365 Stadium, with the latter’s absence with an ACL injury potentially putting a centre-back at the top of Michael O’Neill’s January transfer wishlist.
But one side that aren’t currently monitoring him closely at this stage is Lee Bowyer’s Birmingham, with local outlet Birmingham Live reporting they aren’t looking to make a move for him at this stage.
Potentially available for a six-figure fee, Souttar could be an excellent option for the Blues with Wolverhampton Wanderers likely to recall fellow central defender Dion Sanderson from St Andrew’s when the next calendar year comes around.
Sanderson’s departure would leave the Blues with one less option at centre-half for a side currently playing with three at the back, so they need as much depth as possible if they want to continue playing this system.
Considering the progress they have made under Bowyer, switching the system due to a lack of available options would be a real blow to the West Midlands outfit, though admittedly this would only be a necessity if injuries and/or suspensions start to creep in.
Harlee Dean, Kristian Pedersen, George Friend and Marc Roberts are good senior options to have, but Pedersen may need to play at left-wing-back if Jeremie Bela becomes unavailable and adding a fifth player in the mix in Souttar can only help to increase competition and maximise performance levels.
Arguably, he would be good enough to start alongside the reliable Friend and one of Roberts/Dean/Pedersen – and with his contract expiring at the end of the season – there’s a real opportunity for the second-tier side’s recruitment team to pick up a bargain.