TOWN chief Peter Jackson today underlined his determination to keep hold of Jon Stead by telling prospective suitors: "He won't go cheaply."
There is growing speculation about possible bids following another outstanding Stead show in Saturday's 2-0 home win against Boston United.
The striker may not have added to his 18 goals, but his all-round contribution caught the eye and will not have gone unnoticed by the three Premiership scouts on duty - from Southampton, Newcastle and Fulham, who are now looking for a replacement for Louis Saha.
First Division West Ham United, who are coming under pressure to sell Michael Carrick and Jermain Defoe, sent their senior scout Ian Hughes to run the rule, while Preston, Ipswich and Nottingham Forest were also represented.
Jackson acknowledged: "Jon Stead is a wanted player.
"I want to keep him at this club, but whether he will be here at the end of January is out of my hands.
"The transfer window is open and who knows what will happen?
"One thing is for certain, though - if Jon Stead leaves this club he won't be going cheaply."
Jackson insists the only bid for Stead has come from First Division Sunderland, who retain their interest despite having an £800,000 offer turned down.
Town had fit-again striker Jon Newby back in their squad on Saturday and he played the last three minutes as a replacement for Stead, who hobbled off with Achilles and thigh problems.
There could also be a cash boost of £50,000 to come from Bolton quite soon.
Delroy Facey has now made 14 appearances for the Reebok club and, while he wasn't in the squad against Portsmouth, he could make the bench in Wednesday's Carling Cup semi-final first leg against Aston Villa. Should he get on, Town would receive £50,000 with equal payments due at 20 and 25 appearances.
Andy Booth (groin) is still under treatment and will not play in tomorrow's practice match against Chesterfield.
Jackson is likely to involve keeper Ian Gray, who was back on the bench against Boston on Saturday.
* Town Juniors lost 1-0 at home to Leeds United on their return to action in the FA Academy Premier League.