NEWCASTLE United are expected to open contract talks with Andy Carroll and Steven Taylor at the end of the current campaign – although it is far from certain they will both start next season at St James’ Park.
Carroll and Taylor were involved in an ugly training ground clash earlier this week which left the latter with a fractured cheekbone and ended his hopes of playing again this season.
United responded to the sudden crisis by winning 1-0 at Doncaster Rovers on Tuesday night with Carroll scoring the only goal of the game, although the club are finding it hard to move on from the crisis.
Nevertheless the United hierarchy – which has steadfastly refused to make any public comment on the fracas – intends to open talks with the pair at the end of the season, in an effort to get both homegrown stars to commit to long-term contracts.
Taylor will only have one year left on his deal in the summer and will expect a pay rise if the club do secure a return to the top flight at the first attempt.
Carroll, who is Newcastle’s leading goalscorer this season despite the controversy surrounding him off the pitch, is also due to discuss improved terms as well as an extension.
Whether both will sign those deals is open to question.
Although Taylor does not plan to press charges against Carroll he has been heavily linked with a move over the last two years and, at 24, could decide the time is right to leave after six years as a first-team regular.
Taylor may well have left last summer had a good offer came in for him, although a lack of firm interest and a desire to help get the club he supported as a boy back into the Premier League persuaded him to stay put.
The ball, though, will be in his court at the end of the season if Newcastle are a Premier League force again.
United manager Chris Hughton will be keen to keep him, but United cannot afford to let him run down his contract and leave on a Bosman-style free transfer in 14 months’ time.
If Taylor cannot agree improved terms it is almost certain he will be sold in the summer, and it remains to be seen whether his dispute with Carroll has any impact on his thought process.
As for Carroll, the England Under-21 international has attracted plenty of admiring glances this season and was Stoke City’s number one transfer target during the January transfer window.
However, The Journal understands he is keen to stay at Newcastle and will sign a new deal if his wages are raised to give him parity with other prominent England Under-21 internationals around the country.
These negotiations will not begin in earnest until the season has ended and United know which division they are in, although the club’s management must first ensure there is no simmering discontent between Carroll and Taylor before they decide to keep them both.
An internal investigation is underway, and the club will not be releasing any statements until this private investigation has reached a conclusion.
Meanwhile, Nicky Butt is confident United will prove they have a team full of winners as they look to secure promotion.
United entertain third-placed Nottingham Forest on Monday night, with a victory meaning they would only need to win two more games to guarantee a Premier League place next term.
Butt said: “We have a massive team spirit in our dressing room, we show that every time we go out.
“Every time we go out, we look around the changing room and we know we have the quality next to us.
“I would take this squad above any other in the Championship.”