Football: Newcastle seek Beardsley replacement: Fractured cheekbone puts England striker out for six weeks

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THE Newcastle manager, Kevin Keegan, yesterday began the hunt for a new striking partner for Andy Cole after it was confirmed that Peter Beardsley had fractured his cheekbone - the opposite one to that damaged by Liverpool's Neil Ruddock a year ago - and would be out for up to six weeks.

The injury was sustained when Beardsley collided with Steve Thompson, of Leicester, in Newcastle's first match of the season, the 3-1 victory at Filbert Street on Sunday.

Keegan reacted to what he conceded was a major setback to his team's Premiership hopes by attending a board meeting at which he sought permission to buy a replacement. Beardsley's absence from the opening seven matches last season severely hampered Newcastle's title challenge.

Keegan, who is also looking for an extra goalkeeper as cover for Pavel Srnicek, sent off at Leicester, said: 'It is a tremendous blow for us to lose a player of Peter's calibre for so long. It's up to me to find replacements.'

One of Beardsley's former England colleagues, Ray Wilkins, is also facing another prolonged absence after breaking a bone in his left foot on his debut for Crystal Palace in the painful 6-1 home defeat to Liverpool.

'It didn't happen in a tackle,' the Palace physiotherapist, Peter McLean, said, 'he just started to feel pain which gradually got worse. But he will be out for at least four weeks or possibly six.'

'I badly wanted to play a part in putting things right after Saturday and this has come as a real shock,' Wilkins said. Barry Fry, the Birmingham manager, has confirmed Coventry's interest in his pounds 500,000-rated central defender Richard Dryden, which seems to suggest that the club has resigned itself to selling Phil Babb, the object of pounds 3.5m offers from Tottenham and Liverpool.

Andy Walker's return to Celtic from Bolton will cost the Scottish Premier club only pounds 550,000, an International Football League Board transfer tribunal has ruled. Bolton's valuation of pounds 2.2m and Celtic's offer of pounds 250,000 represented one of the largest discrepancies in the history of tribunals.