Newcastle interest in Bent tempered by caution

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The Independent Online

Newcastle will not rush into a move for the Charlton and England striker Darren Bent as he recovers from a knee injury. The club's manager, Glenn Roeder, had considered the 22-year-old after Alan Pardew admitted he is available.

However, while the Londoners expect Bent to be back in action within a month, fears that his absence could be more prolonged mean the Magpies are likely to suspend any approach until the summer if the player does not leave The Valley this month.

Newcastle's stance is understandable - they have seen their forward Michael Owen make just 10 starts since his £17m move from Real Madrid in August 2005, and while he may play again towards the end of this season, Shola Ameobi is unlikely to play until next season after hip surgery.

Roeder's admiration for Liverpool's Peter Crouch is well known, although the insistence of the Merseyside club' manager, Rafael Benitez, that the England international is not for sale means he needs contingency plans. Newcastle have been interested in Bent for years - he turned down a move to Tyneside as a teenager, preferring to stay at Ipswich.

But the Magpies have been encouraged by the noises coming out of south-east London after they were forced to disregard him last summer when he signed a new deal with Charlton. Roeder instead turned to the Nigerian Obafemi Martins, who has now settled to such an extent Newcastle have had to dismiss speculation he could be sold to Chelsea this month.

The manager and his chairman, Freddy Shepherd, have been scouring Europe for reinforcements in recent weeks with a striker and defenders their priorities. Roeder said: "It is going the way we expected. When you are looking for quality players, they are never easy to get out of the clubs they are already at. Managers do not want to sell their better players, so it is difficult - but I expected it to be. We are working hard and we will see what the next few weeks bring."

Roeder has insisted he will not invest in players without being certain they can do a job for him for the length of their contracts after being saddled with expensive flops following his appointment as manager. He managed to offload the £8m Frenchman Jean-Alain Boumsong to Juventus during the summer and will hope he can move on Albert Luque, who has also failed to live up to his reputation. It is understood the Dutch side PSV Eindhoven want to take the £9.5m Spanish winger on loan with a view to a permanent deal.

But the player's £40,000-a-week wages could prove the stumbling block, with Newcastle unwilling to meet any shortfall between that and what PSV are prepared to pay. They are adopting a similar stance to the one they took with Boumsong, and will hope for the same outcome.

The 28-year-old Luque has started only six Premiership games for the club, none of them this season, and was left on the bench at Birmingham on Saturday when the youngsters Matty Pattison and Alan O'Brien both played ahead of him.

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