Wednesday, July 12, 2006

To see or not to see (Steed in a black and white shirt)?

Conflicting reports in the media today as to whether we can expect to see Fulham's Steed Malbranque saddle up and ride into Toon.

The Sun claimed the Smogs had pulled out of the race to sign the Londoner's want-away Frenchman, but the Evening Chronicle is now reporting that we're the ones who've pulled out.

If we have withdrawn our interest (and let's just say Alan Oliver has been known to be wrong...), I imagine it'd baffle many more fans than just me. Malbranque has proven himself a consistent attacking threat from midfield over the last few seasons, performing well in a side that has often struggled. His contract expires next summer, and as a result of turning down an extension he's been made to train with the Fulham youth team. Given these circumstances, with both the player and his club seemingly itching for a divorce, surely he wouldn't cost a great deal?

That said, it's a striker or two that we're most in need of at the moment. Oliver claims Shepherd won't be prepared to back Roeder in bankrolling expensive signings like Dirk Kuyt and Miroslav Klose - but the simple fact is that at the moment we're woefully short and players who could possibly have done a job on the cheap and in the short term (eg the Fat Eddie Murphy) have moved elsewhere. Money has to be spent.

Almost as worrying as the striker situation is the rumour that Jean-Alain Boumsong is probably heading back to France with Marseille or Monaco, and not just because we'd have to expect to make a significant loss. His sale would leave us with just Bramble, Taylor, Moore and Elliott with centre-back experience. No matter how poor Boumsong was last season - and he was very poor, especially after a promising opening to his United career - we need to be signing defenders rather than selling them. By all means, Freddie, cut your losses and flog him - but make sure you've got at least two signings on the way first. Might we be back in for Robert Huth now that he's allegedly failed his medical on Smogside?


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