Fleetwood Town’s technical director Gretar Steinsson is not surprised there has been speculation about Amari’i Bell’s future due to the left-back’s evolution into a top athlete at Highbury.
Steinsson admitted Town face a tough battle to keep the 23-year-old this summer, with Championship trio Aston Villa, Birmingham and Norwich all reported to be eyeing a summer swoop after Premier League clubs Crystal Palace and West Ham were linked with the defender in January.
Burton-born Bell moved to Highbury after his release from Birmingham in 2015.
The left-footer made just one start for the Blues after rising through the ranks, with numerous loan spells in several divisions at Nuneation, Kidderminster, Mansfield, Swindon and Gillingham before finding his niche at Fleetwood.
Bell has gone from strength to strength at Town, growing in confidence and racking up 88 starts.
He has cemented his place as first-choice left-back as the club finished fourth in League One under Uwe Rosler.
Now, as Town look to bounce back from their play-off semi-final heartbreak against Bradford, a number of their history boys are catching the eye of clubs in higher divisions.
And after Town conceded only 43 goals in 46 league games, Steinsson is not surprised Bell and fellow defender Cian Bolger are at the centre of specualtion.
But with Bell under contract for another year and Bolger tied down on a two-year deal after his free transfer from Southend, Steinsson is hopeful both will still be at the club when the next season kicks off on August 5.
No official approaches have been made and Steinsson told The Gazette: “We want to create assets to sell but it always has to be at the right time.
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“With Amari’i, we took him from Birmingham. At the time a young boy, who had been on loan on a few occasions.
“He comes here into this environment and has never played as many games in two seasons, 100 games, and he hardly ever misses a training session.
“That is a great compliment to our medical department, sports science department and what we do with Uwe, with our nutrition and our protocols with travelling and recovery.
“And now we have a top athlete who without a doubt is going to play at a higher level.
“They are obviously going to be of interest (to other clubs) because we went to the play-offs and no-one thought we would. When you do that, obviously there is interest.
“At the moment I can see them both staying next season. They are players who can play at a higher level.
“With Amari’i being an exceptional talent, I am not surprised he is linked with so many clubs.
“We know there is interest in him. It will be tough to keep (hold of him) but I hope we will keep him for another season.”