NEWCASTLE United’s move for Mike Williamson was in serious doubt last night after cash-strapped Portsmouth found themselves locked in a wrangle over back-payment with the defender’s former club Watford.
United agreed personal terms with the defender ahead of a £1m move yesterday and had hoped to announce the signing, but the transfer was at an impasse as it emerged Portsmouth are yet to pay the majority of the money they owe the Hornets for Williamson, who moved to the South Coast in August last year.
The Hornets are due a sell-on fee and a large chunk of back payments related to the original £2m deal that took him to Fratton Park and there were claims last night that if a deal was pushed through Watford could be entitled to as much £1.5m.
The fee agreed between Newcastle and Portsmouth was only £1m – meaning the sale would actually end up costing the stricken Premier League basement dwellers.
Newcastle are awaiting further developments and Chris Hughton told The Journal last night he was still optimistic about a deal being pushed through but, unless Watford agree to take a major hit on the money they are owed, the transfer appears doomed.
A loan deal is one way of pushing through the switch, but nothing appears to be straightforward at the imperilled South Coast outfit, who have endured a week of constant speculation about their impoverished financial state.
The capture of Williamson would be timely with United assessing a knee injury suffered by Steven Taylor in training on Thursday – a knock that sees him rested for today’s FA Cup fourth round trip to West Bromwich Albion. “I’m still very much hopeful of a deal going through as soon as possible,” Hughton told The Journal last night.
“I know where we were in the morning and it’s just a case of waiting and seeing at the moment.”
Whatever happens in Newcastle’s pursuit of Williamson, Hughton will make his move for a striker early next week.
The Newcastle boss spoke to Marlon Harewood and Aston Villa on Thursday night to confirm his interest in bringing the forward back to St James’ Park, but has asked for extra time to make a decision after being tied up with the hunt for defensive reinforcements. Meanwhile, Alan Smith reckons it would foolish to write off Newcastle United’s FA Cup hopes this season – even though promotion from the Championship remains top of the agenda at St James’ Park.
Hughton will ring the changes at the Hawthorns today as he looks to protect his key first team players in preparation for a busy schedule over the next month.
That means youth will get its chance against West Brom with Nile Ranger, Tim Krul and Tamas Kadar all primed to start against United’s promotion rivals.
But Smith has counselled against under-estimating United along the road to Wembley, promising the young guns are capable of holding their own.
“Everyone said we would get relegated from the Championship,” he said. “When we went to West Brom at the start of this season everyone said ‘We will see how many it is today’ because they thought Newcastle would end up getting relegated this season.
“So we don’t mind people writing off our chances of doing well in the FA Cup.”