NEWCASTLE United will not be making a move for Sol Campbell this summer, contrary to reports yesterday.
The 35-year-old is engaged to Fiona Baratt – granddaughter of Newcastle property tycoon Sir Laurie Barratt – and has long harboured a wish to play for the Magpies.
But if he is holding out for a phone call from manager Chris Hughton, he will be disappointed.
Having worked with Campbell at the centre-back’s first club, Tottenham Hotspur, Hughton is a confirmed fan of the former England central defender.
But with a limited transfer budget he appears to have decided free agent Campbell does not offer value for money even as a player-coach. Reports yesterday suggested it was a post Newcastle had offered Campbell, with Celtic and West Ham United also interested. Even before Hughton’s time at the helm but most recently before he rejoined Arsenal in January, Newcastle have enquiried about Campbell’s availability. His wage demands have been an unsurmountable obstacle.
Newcastle seem sure to be in the market for a centre-back this summer with doubts over the future of Steven Taylor and Mike Williamson untested in the top flight.
But at this stage of his career, Campbell can no longer be expected to provide anything more than back-up, the role Arsene Wenger surprisingly asked him to fill at Arsenal during the second half of last season. Even with an injury to former captain William Gallas causing Campbell’s surprising selection for the knockout stages of last season’s Champions League, he started just 14 games last season, one of them in League Two during an ill-fated stint at Notts County.
Wenger opted for holding midfielder Alexander Song and fellow veteran Mikel Silvestre at centre-half against Barcelona in the quarter-finals, keeping Campbell on the bench despite injuries at the heart of the defence in both legs.
Taylor, who has headed to Los Angeles with a personal fitness trainer in an attempt to be ready for next season, has only one year left on his contract and is one of Newcastle’s most in-demand players in a summer where Hughton may have to sell to fund the squad improvements he feels are necessary.
Chelsea were yesterday reportedly preparing a £7m bid for another, Andy Carroll. Taylor’s future is further complicated by the alleged training-ground incident between the two home-grown players.
Even more pressing than the need for a centre-back is fresh blood in a sparse backroom decimated since the overcrowded days of Sam Allardyce.
Now Hughton has only assistant Colin Calderwood and goalkeeping coach Paul Barron to help him. Campbell is keen to move into coaching – an off-the-field role was included in the five-year contract he signed with Notts County last season, only to cut it short after one game at Morecambe’s Christie Park.
Celtic appears a more likely destination, with Campbell claiming last month to have talked to manager-in-waiting Neil Lennon.
“I’ve spoken with Neil about moving to Celtic, and I’ve been impressed with what he had to say,” the defender said at the time. “Celtic is a serious option for me.”
Lennon is expected to be confirmed as the Bhoys’ new full-time manager this week.
Among the latest names linked with a move to St James’ Park are Norwegian striker Marcus Pedersen and former defender Andy O’Brien. Now 20, Pedersen was 14 when he made his senior debut for HamKam, joining current club Strømsgodset last year.
He has three goals in four appearances for Norway’s Under-21 side.
Having found himself on the fringes at the Reebok Stadium, Bolton centre-back O’Brien is available for around £1m, with Leeds United also said to be interested in the Harrogate-born player.
O’Brien, who made 172 appearances for United between 2001 and 2005, has played just three Premier League games since Owen Coyle was named manager in January.