MICHAEL Owen believes Newcastle United have more important things to worry about than his new contract even though the club’s best player can leave for nothing at the end of the season.
Owen underlined his value with two poacher’s goals against Stoke City, but while the England international insisted he had not snubbed a new contract at St James’s Park it is impossible to get away from the fear the striker will agree a Bosman-style free transfer with a rival club next month.
His close friend and former club captain Alan Shearer indicated as much on Match of the Day on Saturday night and, given the continued uncertainty surrounding the ownership of the club, and the trouble the team is in on the pitch following the failure to beat Stoke, few could blame Owen if he decided it was best to move on at the end of the season.
“We had a few meetings earlier on in the season and things were going fine,” said Owen, who has scored eight goals in 15 appearances this season.
“Then the manager left as did someone on the board (Tony Jimenez) who we were negotiating with. Talks haven’t picked up since. Before it gets twisted again, that’s not me snubbing Newcastle.
“They’ve got bigger things to fry than sorting out my contract, or the contracts of Steven Harper, Shola Amoebi, Mark Viduka and Nicky Butt – there are a lot of people out of contract (at the end of the season).
“They haven’t got round to talking with the players. There has been a lot of turmoil at the club and I suppose they have been shuffled to the back of the queue.
“The club obviously haven’t got back to us yet. As soon as Joe Kinnear came in he mentioned that he wanted to do that. So we are going to speak to the club whenever he organises a meeting or anything like that.”
Kinnear, though, claimed before the draw with Stoke he had contacted the agents of the out-of-contract players, but had been told they wanted to assess their options in January when they have the opportunity to talk to rival clubs.
That makes financial sense for the players who have every right to seek the best terms available, but it is another unhelpful distraction for a team which hovers dangerously close to the drop zone.
Owen, though, gave his backing to Kinnear as he, like everyone else, waits to see whether United’s manager will get the transfer funds he needs and deserves.
He said: “He has come in and has had a steadying influence on the club and has done really well. We’re quite hard to beat. We’ve had a lot of draws and if we can turn those into wins we’ll be on the right road.’’