New recruits are urgently needed, admits Keegan

Newcastle's players have told the club's new manager Kevin Keegan that they are in desperate need of new blood.

Keegan is now giving urgent attention to strengthening his squad before the transfer window closes at the end of the month before he turns his mind to deciding who to keep from the 23 back-room staff he inherited from his predecessor, Sam Allardyce.

Allardyce had a huge number of specialists working with him and Keegan is expected to tell many of them that their services are no longer required.

Keegan said: "The players are saying, 'We need players', and if the players are saying that, and I'm saying that, you can be assured we've got a small, but good quality, squad.

"There were only 16 players we could pick against Bolton. When the African guys come back, and the guys who are suspended come back, we'll have a strong squad if we can get one or two in."

Keegan has already been linked with the left-backs Wayne Bridge and Nicky Shorey and central defenders Sol Campbell and Richard Dunne.

Asked if he had made a decision on his back-room staff, Keegan, who has brought in his old assistant Arthur Cox, added: "Not yet. My first priority is to see if we can get players in."

Keegan will continue with Michael Owen as captain. The goalkeeper Shay Given had captained the side in the FA Cup last week and Alan Smith before that under Allardyce.

"I think we'll leave it with him at the moment and, if he comes to me and says he enjoys it, then we can look at it longer term," said Keegan, who handed the armband to Owen as an olive branch after the striker had criticised his spell as England manager in his autobiography.

Elsewhere in the North-east, Keegan's Middlesbrough counterpart Gareth Southgate is hoping for positive news in his pursuit of the Brazilian striker Afonso Alves tomorrow.

The Dutch football federation have arranged a meeting between Heerenveen, who hold the player's registration, and AZ Alkmaar, with whom Alves has signed a contract. The federation is expecting the clubs to settle their dispute by the end of the day's meeting but, whatever the outcome, Southgate will face a tough battle to bring him to the Riverside.

"We are doing our best to make the breakthrough but nothing is ever simple," Southgate said. "We want to bring someone in, but I can't say that it will definitely happen. We just have to keep working away and see what happens."

Southgate has revealed that he decided to relieve George Boateng of the Boro captaincy to allow him to "concentrate on his game", with Julio Arca leading the team out at Blackburn on Saturday. Southgate added: "I want George to be free to enjoy his football."

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