Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Football: Allardyce Wants to Bolster Back Line; Babayaro Released by United

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Football: Allardyce Wants to Bolster Back Line; Babayaro Released by United

Article excerpt

Byline: Stuart Rayner

SAM Allardyce will be hoping to persuade owner Mike Ashley to release the funds for a new leftback in January after ending Celestine Babayaro's Newcastle United career.

Last night the Magpies were finalising the Nigerian international's release and, although his departure was not unexpected, it leaves the club with only one specialist left-back.

But Allardyce's options are set to improve ahead of the busy festive period with Michael Owen one of five players close to a first-team return.

Allardyce had a habit of talking about the defenders in his squad without referring to Babayaro. It speaks volumes that he was prepared to end the 29-year-old's contract half a year early despite expecting to be without another two defenders - Abdoulaye Faye and Habib Beye - during the African Cup of Nations.

With top scorer Obafemi Martins and captain Geremi also expected to be called up by Nigeria and Cameroon respectively, Allardyce is keen to strengthen his squad in January. No discussion has yet taken place with Chris Mort about what funding will be available, but the chairman has pre-empted them by warning Ashley is unlikely to provide money for any major signings.

"If I was going to sign anyone it would be with a much longer-term view than January and February," he said. "We're looking to build a first team squad capable of competing at the top level, but we are also looking to improve at youth level and make signings there."

Ever since joining for pounds 1m, along with defender Jean-Alain Boumsong in January 2005, Babayaro has been plagued by injury.

His non-appearance record in that time was emblematic of the problems which infected the club at the time and caused many Magpies supporters to question his commitment.

In his three years on Tyneside he started just 45 Premier League games and was involved in 68 matches in total, despite being firstchoice in his position throughout.

His last appearance came on March 31, when he was part of the side beaten 1-0 by Manchester City. …

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