MICHAEL Owen has expressed an interest in staying at Newcastle United but his desire to remain at St James’s Park is being undermined by the uncertainty surrounding the club’s ownership.
That is the verdict of team-mate Nicky Butt, who is also calling for an end to the confusion surrounding the position of interim manager Joe Kinnear. Butt, hailed as the “heartbeat” of United’s midfield by Kinnear last week, has become as reliable and influential member of the squad as anyone during the recent period of instability at St James’s Park.
The midfielder does not see the lack of clarity surrounding the club’s future as a huge threat to their Premier League status – but the uncertainty is clearly affecting long-term planning at the club, with Owen’s contract situation still a long way away from a satisfactory conclusion.
Butt believes there is a will on Owen’s part to sign, and believes that enthusiasm is shared by all in the dressing room.
“Everyone at the club wants him to stay. I think he wants to stay himself but there’s nobody you can speak to about contracts at the minute,” he said.
“No one knows who’s making the decisions at the club at the moment. We’ve got players running out of time on their contracts but no one can sign a contract, we don’t know whether someone’s buying the club or not.
“It’s not a major problem with the players, though. We’re just getting on with the football and hopefully it’ll get sorted out soon.”
His revelation that Owen is considering staying at Newcastle should prompt some optimism the club can keep hold of their star asset if the fog of confusion engulfing St James’s Park can be cleared.
The striker was offered a new deal in August but that was before owner Mike Ashley put the club up for sale following Kevin Keegan’s departure, and Owen is understandably reluctant to sign a new deal – even if the offer is still open.
The forward clearly feels he owes the club a debt of loyalty after they stuck with him through the serious injury suffered in the World Cup finals in 2006, however, and he has been increasingly accepted by United supporters since returning to full fitness.
The uncertainty surrounding Owen’s
future is mirrored in the situations faced by Steve Harper and Shola Ameobi, who are both out of contract at the end of the season.
Kinnear, too, is guaranteed two more games as manager but after that much will depend on the outcome of the meeting scheduled after United’s trip to Stamford Bridge to face Chelsea on November 22.
“I’m sure he (Kinnear) is looking to get himself settled down but at the minute nothing’s happening. We’ll have to wait and see what happens,” said Butt.
“As players we just get on with it. It’s been like that for a while now so we’ve just learned to get on with it – I’m sure it’s more frustrating for the gaffer because he’s in limbo. It’s something that needs to be sorted out soon.”
On the field, United are back in the bottom three after a frustrating defeat at Fulham – and Butt admits the inconsistent displays are troubling him.
“The Fulham game was just typical us. We’ve got our heads up and we’ve done really well over the last few games but then we’re disappointed to lose,” he said.
“That inconsistency is really frustrating. We’d had two good results, got our heads up and then started looking at these next two against Fulham and Wigan as winnable games. Now we’ve lost the first one and the pressure is back on. We just don’t do ourselves any favours.”
Meanwhile, Kinnear will learn today whether he will face a misconduct charge over his comments regarding referee Martin Atkinson.
Newcastle’s interim manager branded Atkinson a “Mickey Mouse” official for failing to spot a shove on Claudio Caçapa in the build-up to the decisive penalty decision at Craven Cottage, and the FA will contact him later today.
“His comments are under consideration,” an FA spokesman confirmed.