Newcastle ready to fight Man City interest in Owen
Newcastle are hopeful of fighting off any approach from Manchester City for England striker Michael Owen.
Uncertainty has mounted over the 27-year-old forward's future on Tyneside ever since it emerged he has a get-out clause in his contract which would allow him to leave St James' Park for as little as £9million.
Speculation that Sven-Goran Eriksson, who worked with the player during his spell as England boss, could try to take Owen to Manchester City should he be appointed by prospective new owner Thaksin Shinawatra has done little to ease the anxiety on Tyneside.
However, there is a growing feeling within the camp that the former Real Madrid frontman, who has made only 14 appearances for the club in two seasons because of injury problems, will still be wearing the black and white shirt next season.
Owen has yet to comment publicly on his future and has two years of his contract still to run.
However, manager Sam Allardyce has discussed his plans with the player, and while he admits there would be little he could do to prevent him leaving should another club trigger the clause, he will hope he has persuaded him to form a new-look strike force with summer signing Mark Viduka and perhaps Obafemi Martins.
The 22-year-old Nigerian also has an escape clause - set at £13million - but appears to have committed himself to the club after a controversial conclusion to his first season on Tyneside.
Allardyce would happily go into the new season with Owen, Martins, Viduka, Shola Ameobi and youngster Andy Carroll giving him options in attack.
However, he knows he needs a back-up plan and has been linked with the likes of Fredi Kanoute, Nicolas Anelka and El-Hadji Diouf, as well as former Newcastle striker Craig Bellamy.
But there was consternation on Tyneside and beyond today at reports that the club has sealed a move for Manchester United's Alan Smith.
Both the Magpies and the Smith camp were quick to play down the suggestion with the 26-year-old not due to return from holiday until early next month, when he will seek assurances about his future at Old Trafford.
Middlesbrough and Sunderland are understood to be interested in securing his services if he becomes available.
Meanwhile, Albert Luque has been told he could still have a future at St James' Park after the collapse of his proposed loan move to PSV Eindhoven.
New signing Joey Barton has been handed the 29-year-old's number seven shirt, but Allardyce is adamant he could yet force his way into contention after a desperately disappointing two years since his £9.5million switch from Deportivo la Coruna.
The manager said: 'I feel far too many players have got lost at this football club and it is my responsibility to make sure that does not happen to any current member of the staff or any new player I might bring in.
'One of the reasons I was successful at Bolton Wanderers was transforming a foreign player out of whatever country he had come from into a Premiership player.
'That's because we found out what problems he had as early as early as we possibly could.
'I don't want to be too critical of what has happened here in the past, but in my opinion, there has not be enough focus on what is happening in a player's life away from the training ground and the club.
'Has he got the right lifestyle? Is he living in the right place for him and his family? In fact, it's not just the player but his wife and family.
'But once that is sorted out, you get the best out of player and this is something I have got to try to work out with Albert Luque.
'He might be too far gone, who knows? But we might still be able to resurrect his career here. We will see.'