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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Apr, 2, 2008

Safety first, spending plans second for Toon

Newcastle chairman Chris Mort has told manager Kevin Keegan they will sit down to discuss cash once Premier League safety is assured.

The Magpies have taken a massive stride towards securing their top-flight status with a haul of seven points from the last nine on offer, and perhaps gave an indication of what Keegan will hope is to come in Sunday's resounding 4-1 victory at Tottenham.

Their heroics at White Hart Lane lifted Newcastle into 12th place in the table, nine points clear of the relegation zone, and a third successive victory when Reading head for St James' Park on Saturday would all but end their fears of being dragged into the scrap.

It has been as difficult a season on Tyneside as a club with a capacity for drama has endured in recent years, but planning for the new campaign is already under way and Mort and owner Mike Ashley are ready to play their part.

The chairman said: 'Of course we will sit down with Kevin soon.

'What we have said is, once we have made sure we are safe for next season, we will go through the squad with Kevin and see where the rebuilding is required.

'It is only fair to the supporters to make sure we are safe for next season before making any decisions.

'We are taking nothing for granted.'

Having failed in his efforts - largely concentrated on a fruitless attempt to land Jonathan Woodgate - to strengthen the squad in January, Keegan and his recruitment team have already started to identify targets.

The 57-year-old inherited a squad short on pace and creativity from predecessor Sam Allardyce, and it would be little surprise if that was his major focus.

Atletico Madrid's Jose Antonio Reyes, Marseille's Bafetimbi Gomis and Luis Fabiano of Sevilla are among the attack-minded players with whom the club has been linked already.

No matter how Newcastle's turbulent season finishes, the result will be below the expectations with which they began it, and there is no doubt Keegan's target next time around will be to establish them back among the top six as he did during his previous reign.

There is an acceptance within the squad that the club has underachieved, but that has done little to quell ambition within the dressing room.

Striker Obafemi Martins, whose individual goal at Spurs was the pick of the bunch, is desperate to taste European football once again.

He said: 'Everybody in Newcastle wants to get back into Europe, and if we get off to a good start next year, it is possible.

'Things have not gone well this season and, when it is over, we have to sit and think about that a lot and why it has happened.

'Now, though, we have to finish on a high. It has not been our best year, but we still have six games to finish in a respectable position.

'We have to try to get results from the closing stage and finish with a fight.

'All the players know they can get wins from our last few games if they give their maximum in every game.

'If we do that, we can be happy with ourselves.'

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