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Could Liam Boyce be set for a £1m move back to the Championship?

 

By Steven Beacom

Northern Ireland striker Liam Boyce now has a £1m-plus value on his head after a sensational start to the season for Burton Albion.

The former Cliftonville hero netted the only goal of the game for Burton at the weekend against Doncaster Rovers, taking his tally to three in as many games early in the League One campaign.

Boyce has kicked on from where he left off last season when he returned to the side after a serious knee injury and almost helped keep them in the Championship.

That form has led to interest from Championship sides in the 27-year-old, who moved to Burton from Ross County in a £500,000 deal last summer.

It is understood that Burton have already rejected bids, believing that Boyce is worth upwards of £1m. They see him as the spearhead for their promotion bid and are keen to keep the man who inspired Cliftonville to back-to-back titles in 2013 and 2014.

The transfer window may be closed in England for permanent deals but it remains open for loan moves until the end of the month, leaving Burton boss Nigel Clough wary about further interest in his star man.

Clough says that clubs could put together a loan package for Burton's record signing that includes an option to buy in January.

If that proves to be the case, they will have to shell out a seven-figure fee for the ex-Irish League star.

Clough said: "He (Boyce) is one that we are desperately trying to keep hold of, even now, because technically the window isn't shut.

"When somebody scores three in their first three league games, I'm sure there's a few Championship clubs who've got an eye on him and thinking, 'We wouldn't mind that in our team'.

"So even at this stage, until the end of August comes, I don't think we'll be totally comfortable.

"It (the window) has not gone at all, there are loads of deals still being done, loans with a view to a permanent that just get made permanent in January.

"It's a bit of a false closing of the window, because it's not really closed for the Football League."

On Boyce's excellence in front of goal, Clough added: "He popped up with another brilliant goal against Doncaster, and you can't ask any more than three in three from three league games to start the season so far."

Clough's comments come as Burton are expected to offer former England striker Darren Bent a pay-as-you-play deal. The 34-year-old signed for the club in January and scored two Championship goals during the remainder of the campaign.

Tonight in League One, Burton are away to Bradford City, and on Thursday, Boyce will be named in Michael O'Neill's Northern Ireland squad for the home fixtures against Bosnia & Herzegovina (Uefa Nations League) and Israel (friendly) next month.

The Belfast man is likely to start at least one of those games as he aims to cement his place in the side ahead of next year's Euro 2020 qualifiers.

Also set to be included in O'Neill's panel is impressive young Leeds United goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell, who this evening will be out to maintain his club's perfect start to the season in the Championship.

The Elland Road outfit, away to Swansea tonight, have won their first three league games under new boss Marcelo Bielsa and Peacock-Farrell has played a key role to date.

The 21-year-old made his international debut against Panama in Northern Ireland's summer Central American tour and is sure to provide serious competition for Motherwell's Trevor Carson and Norwich City's Michael McGovern in the coming years.

Belfast Telegraph

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