West Ham raise their bid to £8m for Young

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Watford's board was meeting last night to decide whether or not to accept West Ham United's £8m offer for Ashley Young. The bid meets the valuation put on the England Under-21 international by Watford - but the club is reluctant to sell to a relegation rival.

Aston Villa have already bid £7m for Young while Tottenham Hotspur are still in the hunt. Watford would like £6m plus either Calum Davenport or Wayne Routledge for the striker who can also play on either wing.

Spurs do not want Davenport to go until a replacement central defender is signed and that may not happen until the end of the January window. They also believe that Young is being overpriced.

West Ham, whose interest in Young was first revealed by The Independent, turned to the 21-year-old striker after their hopes of signing Shaun Wright-Phillips and Fredrik Ljungberg floundered.

West Ham are pondering whether or not to sign another Arsenal player, Lauren, on a free transfer. It is likely that a final decision will be made at the start of next week over the 29-year-old, who has been told he can leave by the manager Arsène Wenger.

The Cameroonian's £40,000-a-week wages are not a problem for West Ham although they may be concerned that the right-back has not played for 13 months due to injury and they need players who can go straight into their team.

West Ham have already signed Luis Boa Morte - who will make his Premiership debut today against his former club Fulham - for £5m and Nigel Quashie for £1.75m as they aim to escape the relegation places. They hope to step up their transfer activity next week. They still have not given up hope on signing Middlesbrough's Australian striker, Mark Viduka, despite having a £500,000 offer rejected.

At the same time the club have also fielded enquiries about several of their players but are adamant that none will leave in January - bar Javier Mascherano, who is still expected to join Liverpool. Four clubs are interested in Paul Konchesky - including Villa, Manchester City, and Blackburn Rovers who would like to broker a deal involving Lucas Neill moving to Upton Park. West Ham had offered £1.5m for the Australian but he has told them he wants to move to Liverpool or Newcastle United.

Marlon Harewood is also in demand, with Middlesbrough leading the chase, although, again, West Ham do not want to sell. Nigel Reo-Coker held a clear-the-air meeting this week with the new chairman, Eggert Magnusson, and was reassured he had a future at the club. Nevertheless it is believed that the 22-year-old, who was wanted by Arsenal and Manchester United last summer, considered handing in a transfer request on Friday last week.

West Ham's chances of signing their intended targets will improve dramatically if they beat Fulham today and end a three-match losing streak - which includes the 6-0 hammering at Reading which led to stories of growing unrest among the players. The manager Alan Curbishley responded to that yesterday by saying: "I am not interested in individual problems and just need to get this team winning games because the club comes first. I have got to get results and that is the most important thing. The club comes first. The players just have to get on with that."

In the fast lane: Why Young is attracting big money

Ashley Young is likely to be sold for a substantial fee this month, but he is something of an unknown quantity away from Vicarage Road. The 21-year-old has attracted such attention because of his ability to run with the ball at pace, to play both wide and through the centre, and has an eye for goal which would flourish in a better team. Stevenage-born, he made his debut at 18. He has now made 109 appearances for Watford, including 82 starts, scoring 22 goals.

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