Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Chelsea Sacking Holds Up Magpies

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Chelsea Sacking Holds Up Magpies

Article excerpt

Byline: Stuart Rayner

THE power vacuum at Chelsea could delay Newcastle United's attempts to sign winger Shaun Wright-Phillips - but the Magpies are determined to ensure there is no such confusion surrounding Michael Owen's St James's Park future.

While Newcastle will be made to wait before they can sign pounds 10m-rated Wright- Phillips they are anxious not to go into the new campaign unsure if it will be Owen's last on Tyneside.

Kevin Keegan is keen to once more work with Wright-Phillips, the right winger he nurtured at Manchester City. With the England international failing to make the substitutes' bench for last week's Champions League final, United might have been able to quickly push through a deal for the 26-year-old - but for the sacking of Avram Grant, announced on Saturday.

Newcastle's board is in a similar state of transition but the appointment of new chairman Derek Llambias is expected to be rubber-stamped within the next fortnight and Chris Mort's replacement will be charged with clarifying Owen's situation as soon as possible.

United's captain has a year remaining on his present contract and the Magpies are determined not to go into the new campaign with the uncertainty still hanging over them. Llambias will be told to either persuade Owen to sign an extension to his current deal or move him on while the centre-forward still commands a fee, though that could be easier said than done. The Bosman regulations and Owen's status as one of the world's best-paid footballers mean his advisers hold the whip hand in any negotiations this summ er.

Keegan made Owen his captain after returning to Newcastle in January and has repeatedly stated that his is the signature he most wants this summer. But with owner Mike Ashley eager to reduce the club's wage bill, there is speculation Owen's proposed new deal will be on much-reduced terms and, if that is the case, he will only leave on his own terms. …

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