Bullish Newcastle warn big clubs off Owen
Newcastle have insisted England striker Michael Owen will remain at the club amid claims Arsenal are ready to activate a £12million clause in his contract.
Both the Magpies and the 26-year-old himself have repeatedly dismissed speculation he will leave St James' Park this summer almost since the day Owen completed his £17million transfer from Real Madrid last August.
However, that has done nothing to quell the speculation with the latest rumours from London suggesting Arsene Wenger is hot on Owen's trail.
Newcastle have grown tired of commenting on the situation and said nothing publicly today, but in private, the message was unequivocal.
The Newcastle Evening Chronicle quoted 'an insider' to have said: 'It's absolute rubbish. Michael signed a four-year contract and as far as we are concerned, that is the end of the matter.'
That sentiment matches the rhetoric of both chairman Freddy Shepherd and the player in recent months, and although the Magpies know it will not kill off the stories, they are keen the message gets through to the club's fans.
Shepherd pulled off a major coup to capture Owen, muscling the player's former club Liverpool out of the running with a bid they simply could not match.
He has yet to fully reap the rewards of his investment - the striker managed only 11 appearances for the club last season - but the seven goals he scored illustrated that his lethal ability to finish remains intact.
With Alan Shearer having retired at the end of the campaign, Newcastle desperately need to add firepower and have admitted Feyenoord's Dirk Kuyt - also a target for Liverpool - is among the men at whom they are looking.
However, Owen's retention and return to fitness would go a long way to offsetting the departure of the man who scored 206 goals in his 10 years at St James' Park.
Manager Glenn Roeder will sit down with Shepherd this week to discuss his transfer kitty and the identities of the players he will have to move on if he is to pursue his targets.
That could spell the end for expensive misfits Albert Luque and Jean-Alain Boumsong, as well as fringe players such as Amady Faye and the returning Nicky Butt, who spent last season on loan at Birmingham.
However, with the likes of Chelsea's £21million midfielder Shaun Wright-Phillips in their sights - the Magpies are monitoring his situation a year after they first enquired about him - they are once again aiming high.
The former Manchester City winger made only 15 starts for the Blues last season and is one of a series of men Roeder has identified on his wish-list, although that list will be whittled down in the weeks ahead.
Should the Magpies decide to push home their interest and do so successfully, it could make for an interesting reunion.
Defender Robbie Elliott has been offered a new one-year deal two months after he feared Wright-Phillips might have ended his career.
The 32-year-old was controversially sent off during his side's 1-0 FA Cup quarter-final defeat at Stamford Bridge after the midfielder went to ground with little persuasion, and feared he may not win his place back after suspension as he attempted to secure a new contract.
'Robbie has been offered a new deal,' said Roeder. 'He did particularly well for me in the three months I was in charge at the end of the season and it would be well deserved.
'He put in some fine performances for the club and he gives you not only experience, but also versatility.
'Robbie can play left-back, right-back or in the heart of defence, which provides us with cover.'