NEWCASTLE United could step up their efforts to sign Alex Pearce after being warned off making a move for James Tomkins.
Irrespective of whether or not they can keep Fabricio Coloccini, the Magpies are in the market for a new centre-back this summer.
Manager Alan Pardew is a long-time admirer of Tomkins, but West Ham United have reiterated the 24-year-old is not for sale.
Republic of Ireland international Pearce is a possible alternative and would be available on a free transfer. But Liverpool’s reported interest means they would have to move quickly.
Reds manager Brendan Rodgers is also in the market for central defenders after the retirement of Jamie Carragher, and with Martin Skrtel and possibly Daniel Agger expected to leave Anfield this summer.
Pearce made 21 appearances for Reading last season – a club Pardew and Rodgers have both managed. He would have played more, but was left out once it was clear the Royals were going to be relegated and that he was going to refuse an extension to the contract which expires this month.
Newcastle have for a long time been short of specialist centre-backs. The January arrival of Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa brought their numbers up to four, but Mike Williamson has never really convinced as a top-flight player.
Pardew may look to replace him with
someone who carries a greater goal-threat, having identified Newcastle’s weakness at set-pieces as a summer priority.
“The big fall-down has been the centre-backs scoring goals from set plays,” Pardew said as he looked back on a disappointing 2012-13. “We need to have more dominance in that area.
“We’re not the strongest attacking-wise (from set-pieces) and that is an area we need to look at.”
Pearce’s only goal last season came on his Republic of Ireland debut against minnows Oman. But he has 15 in a club career approaching 200 games.
The 6ft 2in defender would also bring much-needed experience of English football – albeit largely in the lower divisions – to a squad light on it. Williamson, on the other hand, is yet to score for the Magpies after 100 appearances. Tomkins, rated at £4m, has struggled to establish himself in the West Ham team last season, starting only 18 Premier League matches, many of them in midfield.
But co-owner David Gold is adamant he will not be sold, having persuaded the 6ft 3in England Under-21 international to sign a new contract in the summer, when Newcastle were again linked with him.
“We are not selling James – he’s on a long contract and is still only a young man,” he said.
“He’s an absolutely top prospect and were he to be available it would not be easy to buy him as we have a very high valuation on him.
“This is no longer a selling club. We are moving forward into a big future and we will therefore be keeping our biggest players – James is one of them.” Coloccini, currently in Argentina preparing for Friday’s World Cup qualifier against Colombia, made it clear during and after the last transfer window that he would like a return to boyhood club San Lorenzo, where his father still works, for unspecified “personal reasons”.
But particularly after the way he dramatically improved the side after returned to it late in the season, Newcastle are keen to keep their captain. San Lorenzo have made it abundantly clear they do not have the finances to force the situation.
They will therefore have to rely on Coloccini to push through a move, but in public at least, Pardew was optimistic the Magpies might be able to keep the defender.