Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Perm-anent deal nearly done

STILL no official word on Coloccini, but judging by the fact that Mike Ashley, sat next to him at Saturday's friendly with Valencia, was wearing a new away shirt bearing his name, it's surely a done deal now. That said, King Kev, speaking after the game, commented: "I like his hair, it's like mine in the 70s, but I can't tell you any more than that". And there I was thinking he just had a thing for straggle-haired central defenders, Brian Kilcline and Darren Peacock being exhibits A and B...

If we want to land another long-term defensive target, Rangers centre back Carlos Cuellar, we're going to have to move fast. Given his imperious performances in last year's UEFA Cup, it was inevitable that there'd be a flurry of interest when he announced his desire to leave in the wake of the Gers' failure to qualify for Europe, and, seemingly hell-bent on buying an entirely new defence (following the signings of Luke Young and Nicky Shorey), Villa have stolen a march on us and the rest of the chasing pack by agreeing a £7.8m fee.

Also linked with us today have been Cuellar's teammate at Ibrox Allan McGregor (though why we'd want to spend £5m on a reserve 'keeper when we've already got Steve Harper and the fast-maturing Tim Krul is beyond me) and Fulham's Jimmy Bullard, whose contract negotiations have apparently broken down and who, it seems, doesn't hold any grudges against the St James's Park turf despite it being responsible for his long-term knee injury.

The Valencia match, our last friendly before the season kicks off at Old Trafford, gave us a much-needed boost, with Jonas Gutierrez playing a starring role and Damien Duff and James Milner scoring late on to turn the game on its head as our superior fitness told. Keegan was once again full of praise for Duff afterwards, but I wouldn't be surprised if the Bentley money currently burning a hole in Paul Ince's pocket didn't result in a bid for the Irishman's services before the transfer window shuts - and I wouldn't rule out us taking the money.

It's not been a particularly promising pre-season - though we can at least console ourselves with the fact that at least we're not Everton (problems with ground redevelopment, no signings and paper-thin squad so increasingly desperate) or, worse still, Man City (manager reportedly on the verge of quitting because of players potentially being sold without his say-so, owner arrogantly jumping bail and best described as being "to human rights what Brian Blessed is to whispering")...


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