MICHAEL Owen will return to pre-season training with Newcastle United this morning determined to prove his commitment to Sam Allardyce’s side.
But there are fresh doubts about the future of Kieron Dyer as he has been lined up by Chelsea as a possible replacement for Barcelona transfer target Frank Lampard.
Owen has been consistently credited with a desire to leave United this year following the emergence of a £9m release clause in his contract if the Magpies receive a bid from a team playing in Europe.
But The Journal understands the England international has told team-mates he is no longer contemplating the possibility of a move as he concentrates on ensuring he is in the best possible condition for the start of, what he hopes, will be an injury-free campaign on Tyneside.
That will come as a big relief to Allardyce, who knows Owen is one of the most effective goalscorers in world football, despite his persistent injury problems.
Newcastle’s manager is still interested in Barcelona striker Eidur Gudjohnsen, but with Owen content to stay, the Icelandic international will only be signed if the tentative interest shown in Obafemi Martins from Arsenal and Juventus leads to a firm bid.
Whether Owen, having hopefully proven his form and fitness over the course of the first half of the season, is the subject of greater interest from the Premiership’s Champions League participants when the transfer window opens again in January, remains to be seen, but the 27-year-old has privately dismissed the possibility of a move.
Those sentiments, of course, will need to be backed up in public but, crucially, Allardyce is satisfied with the striker’s attitude as he looks to make the former Liverpool and Real Madrid star the focal point of his attack next season.
Dyer has also told Allardyce – who insisted over the weekend he was not for sale – that he is excited about the new manager’s plans and fresh ideas at St James’s Park, but that has not prevented rumours circulating that he is a target for Jose Mourinho at Chelsea.
Just as Newcastle supporters’ pre-season has been soured by the constant speculation linking Owen with a move away after two-injury ravaged seasons at the club, so too has Chelsea’s by the breakdown of contract talks between the club and Lampard.
The Blues are still hoping to persuade their star midfielder to sign a new contract at Stamford Bridge but, following another stall in negotiations last week against a backdrop of claims that the 29-year-old is Barcelona’s top target following the acquisition of Thierry Henry from Arsenal, Chelsea have made contingency plans.
And Dyer, who has also been tracked by Chelsea’s London neighbours Tottenham this summer, has been identified as a possible replacement.
Unlike Spurs, Chelsea would have no problem matching Dyer’s wages at St James’s Park, although the 28-year-old has also told team-mates that he is not thinking above leaving Newcastle.
The former Ipswich star, like Owen, has been impressed by Allardyce’s vision for the future on Tyneside and Newcastle’s new manager will fight to keep him if Chelsea do lose Lampard.
Allardyce said: “Anyone saying that I want Kieron to leave is talking utter rubbish. He is one of the successes of last year in that he appears to have overcome his major injury problems.
“I have spoken to Kieron. He is such a versatile player that he can get used in a number of positions and that can be difficult for him sometimes. But I will take the brunt of it if he has to be moved around. We want to grow together.”
Dyer and Owen, who opted to take in Chester races rather than Newcastle’s Northumberland Plate meeting on Saturday, will both return to pre-season training this morning despite having played in England’s summer internationals against Brazil and Estonia.
Allardyce insisted on every player travelling to the club’s pre-season training camp in Austria tomorrow.