Stoke City have set their sights on Rhys Norrington-Davies as Michael O’Neill tries to fill the hole exposed by Morgan Fox’s injury.
Norrington-Davies only signed a new long-term contract at Sheffield United last month and was due to spend the season on loan in the Championship with Luton Town.
But there is believed to be a January recall option in his deal, even if Chris Wilder has previously insisted he would be staying put.
The 21-year-old Wales defender has been highly praised by Nathan Jones but has only played 90 minutes twice since early December.
O’Neill has been keen to bring in competition at left-back, particularly since summer signing Fox was laid out with a hamstring problem. He is expected to be out until towards the end of January.
Stoke have had to change their system to 3-5-2 in his absence due to the lack of a second senior left-back.
Norrington-Davies has also been linked with West Bromwich Albion and Burnley.
Jones only thanked WIlder just before Christmas for letting him stay, telling LutonToday: “I’ve great respect for Chris, so the fact he trusts us with him is very good and I would be biased, but it is the right thing to do, because he’s getting an education here away from Sheffield United.
“I’m pretty sure it would be a similar education in terms of discipline, in terms of development, in terms of what Chris expects from his teams, or his full backs, or his wing backs, I do exactly the same. So I think it’s a parallel experience he would be getting and getting real good game time.
“We’re pretty sure he will go back to Sheffield United and have that great career and what a great manager to be working under, so we’re delighted with that.”
The former Stoke boss had spent his time out from the game last winter scouting for players in positions that are key to how he wants his teams to set up.
That paid off with the loan signings of Norrington-Davies and Leicester midfielder Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall at Luton.
Norrington-Davies was a regular for the first three months of the season and his form was good enough to win his first international cap, starting for Wales against Bulgaria in October.
“From when I left my previous club (Stoke), I believed I would get another job,” Jones told the local paper.
“So I went and looked at a lot of players in key positions for the way I want to play, and Kiernan and Rhys were two of those players that I really flagged up that whatever level or whatever club I went into I would have liked to have signed.
“To get them both was very good, so we are pleased, but we take our recruitment very seriously here and we don’t tend to make a hell of a lot mistakes.”
He added: “I can’t tell you how many games I must have watched, 100 or something, not just the live ones as I lived in a place that was pretty central, so I went to a lot of games, Championship, League One, to look at players.”
Norrington-Davies had joined Sheff Utd’s Academy from Swansea in 2017 and said when he penned his new deal that he was focused on a breakthrough at Bramall Lane.
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He said: “I’m glad to be rewarded having gone out on loan into the Championship this season and play at senior level for Wales too. My long-term focus is coming back to Bramall Lane and playing for Sheffield United.
“But the standard is good in the second tier, I’m enjoying my football in what has been a hectic few months and to play plenty of games has been fantastic. There is definitely more to come from me and I’m determined to keep improving this season.
“The senior call up and winning my first cap for Wales came sooner than expected but it was a proud moment for myself and my family.”