NEWCASTLE United were closing in on their first-choice transfer targets last night after formally submitting written offers for Sheffield United defender Matthew Kilgallon and Leeds United striker Jermaine Beckford.
United have not dawdled in their attempt to strengthen the squad during the transfer window and have made bids of more than one million pounds for both players in the hope of completing the deals before the trip to Reading on Saturday.
Whether things will move that quickly is doubtful given the need for both Sheffield United and Leeds to put on a public display of defiance in the face of Newcastle’s interest.
But senior sources at the Tyneside club are “quietly confident” the moves will be successful. Sheffield United received the bid for Kilgallon (pictured right), yesterday morning and were still considering it last night, even though the defender has indicted he wants to move to St James’ Park.
Although the Blades have attempted to deny they will allow the 25-year-old to leave midway through their league campaign, their manager Kevin Blackwell has acknowledged the fact they are probably fighting a losing battle. He is now more interested in ensuring he is given the funds to replace Kilgallon – who has also attracted interest from Everton – rather than fight to keep him against his wishes, particularly as he will leave for free in June if the Blades do not accept Newcastle’s offer.
Significantly, while the Magpies have refused to pay over the odds they have offered enough money for Sheffield to reinvest and are hopeful it will be accepted in the next 48 hours. Kilgallon picked up a slight hamstring injury
at the weekend, but it is not serious enough to jeopardise a move if Sheffield give him permission to discuss personal terms with the Magpies.
There is rather less certainty regarding their bid for Beckford, although The Journal understands he has informed the Leeds United hierarchy he wants to leave this month and is willing to hand in a transfer request to force their hand.
Leeds, fresh from their shock FA Cup win over Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday when Beckford scored the only goal of the game, are trying to hold on to their 20-goal top goalscorer for as long as possible.
However, they have privately indicated to Beckford they will not stand in his way and will release him as soon as Newcastle offer what they are looking for.
The two clubs are still some distance apart in their valuation at this stage and Leeds are still hoping to attract interest from rival clubs in the hope of sparking a bidding war for the 26-year-old.
There have been rumours of tentative interest from Premier League strugglers Wigan Athletic and Stoke City, but there has been no official enquiry from either club so far.
As with Kilgallon at Sheffield United, Leeds boss Simon Grayson also realises Beckford is out of contract in June and will leave for nothing then if they do not relent to Newcastle’s will.
A source close to Beckford said: “Leeds United have told Jermaine they will allow him to leave as soon as they get an acceptable bid from Newcastle.
“There is still a bit of work to be done in that respect, but they realise he wants to go and it is not beneficial to anyone to keep an unhappy player against his will.
“Jermaine wants to go and he has made that clear. Nobody wants to see the situation turn nasty between club and player so it should be resolved amicably in the end. Jermaine has given his all to Leeds but chances like this don’t come around very often.”
Meanwhile, Newcastle United have refused to confirm the departure of Cameroon international Geremi, even though he has reportedly completed a switch to Turkey’s MKE Ankaragucu.
Geremi, who was in Turkey yesterday, was pictured on the Ankaragucu’s official website shaking hands on a one million pound move over the weekend, but United have so far denied a deal has been struck for the 31-year-old.
Despite the delay it is thought there are only a few minor issue to iron out before the transfer is completed, which will come as a big relief to Newcastle who will be delighted to get his £58,000-a-week wage off the books.