Magpies are close to a double boost

NEWCASTLE United are expected to complete the signing of Aston Villa striker Marlon Harewood providing he can prove his fitness before moving to St James’s Park.

NEWCASTLE United are expected to complete the signing of Aston Villa striker Marlon Harewood providing he can prove his fitness before moving to St James’s Park.

United landed their second loan signing of the season yesterday when Blackburn Rovers’ Georgian defender Zurab Khizanishvili joined on a three-month deal. The club’s first defeat of the season at Blackpool on Wednesday night has re-emphasised the need for extra bodies, and it is in attack that the Magpies are shortest following a long-term injury to Shola Ameobi.

The Journal understands that a deal for Harewood has virtually been agreed.

The 30-year-old, who has only recently returned to full training after a foot injury, is keen to sign for the Magpies, but has been told he must be in a physical condition to play before Hughton finalises a three-month contract.

The former Nottingham Forest and West Ham forward has been pushed out of the first-team squad at Villa Park, but has been a regular goalscorer at Championship level.

And he will add some much-needed pace to the Newcastle side.

Hughton said: “When there is something confirmed we will announce it but, as yet, there is nothing we can add to that. Yes, we are interested and he is one of numerous names we have mentioned, but there is nothing more I can say at this stage.

“We are still working on things and Marlon is one of the players we have spoken about.

“As with all of these things, it is all about timing and if it happens we’ll make sure people know about it.”

Hughton would also have liked to add Fulham’s Diomansy Kamara to his squad, and the

Senegal international would have been an excellent addition given how prolific and effective he was with West Bromwich Albion in the Championship.

But the 28-year-old has also been a threat in the Premier League with Fulham, and scored to secure a point for the Cottagers in their opening Group E Europa League match against CSKA Sofia last night. Cottagers boss Roy Hodgson is reluctant to let him leave on loan to help out Newcastle.

Kamara has privately indicated that he would prefer a move to gain regular first-team football.

But United may have to wait for the stand off between the player and Fulham to break before they can have any hope of signing him until January. In the meantime, Hughton is happy to have strengthened his defensive resources and the signing of Khizanishvili, 27, looks a good piece of business by the caretaker boss.

The former Dundee and Glasgow Rangers defender is used to English conditions and has been a regular first-team player at Blackburn over the last three seasons. He is also able to play as a full-back and his signing means United finally have specialist cover at centre-back, where only Fabricio Coloccini and Steven Taylor have been specialists in that position up until now.

Hughton revealed: “He is someone we have been looking at for a while and we had spoken to Blackburn about him a while ago.

“The time was right and everything fell into place. We’re delighted to get him and I’m sure he will become a very valuable member of the squad here.

“We have been pushing for some time and we have finally got somebody to help give us cover.

“Since the transfer deadline closed we have been hopeful of bringing in fresh faces – and this gives us exactly that.”

Tbilisi-born Khizanishvili, who has 62 senior international caps to his name, began his career with Dinamo Tbilisi, and after spells with city rivals FC Tbilisi and then Lokomotiv Tbilisi, made his way to Scotland and Dundee, and then Rangers.

He joined Blackburn in a £500,000 move during the summer of 2006 after spending a successful season on loan at Ewood Park.

However, he has found himself surplus to requirements at Rovers during the current campaign and has made just one senior appearance, in a 3-1 Carling Cup second-round win at Gillingham.

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Mark Douglas
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Stuart Rayner
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