Newcastle set to make loan bid for Chelsea star

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The Independent Football

Newcastle United are ready to offer Shaun Wright-Phillips an escape route from Chelsea. Their manager, Glenn Roeder, has indicated his desire to take the England midfielder on loan for the rest of the season when the transfer window opens next month.

Wright-Phillips is largely surplus to requirements at Stamford Bridge, and has made just 13 Premiership starts for the champions since his £21m move from Manchester City 18 months ago. Roeder, who faces competition from his City counterpart, Stuart Pearce, for the 25-year-old, said: "If Shaun is available for loan then we'd have to be interested.

"Why he's been unable to force his way into the team at Chelsea I don't know. I wouldn't even try to reason why that's not happened, you'd have to ask Jose Mourinho," he added. Roeder has a long-held admiration for Wright-Phillips, whose arrival would add further congestion to an already well-stocked area of the Newcastle squad. He continued: "He's a highly talented player and without doubt he was Manchester City's best player when he was there. I think he's a huge talent. There's no reason for our fans to panic, we've got targets and we'll be dealing with those over the next 10 days and in the early part of January."

It has long been a criticism of Newcastle United's colourful chairman, Freddy Shepherd, that his judgement is all too often clouded by an irrational passion for his home-town football club. Yet, at a time when his own future is far from secure with talk of a takeover sparking heated debate within the pubs of Tyneside, Shepherd is not about to perform the volte-face necessary to persuade the doubters he is suitably distant from grass-roots emotion.

"I'm Fred the fan first, chairman second," said a bullish Shepherd as he prepared for this afternoon's visit of Tottenham Hotspur and, in the shape of the London club's chairman Daniel Levy, a business-like board member far removed from Newcastle's brash figurehead. "I first started watching Newcastle as a kid on the Gallowgate End and I'll continue watching until the day I die.

"It's my club - and I mean that not as a chairman - but in the way every fan says it's his club. A lot of chairmen are passing through clubs but let me make one thing crystal clear. That's not me. I could never do what Ken Bates or Peter Ridsdale did and join another club's board if I ever left Newcastle. No chance whatsoever. It's in my blood. You can get rid of the wife or the bank manager, but a Geordie can never get rid of Newcastle."

Maybe so. However, immediately after Newcastle's tame home defeat against Sheffield United at the beginning of November, the question on the lips of a sizeable minority of disaffected Magpies' supporters was just how to get rid of Shepherd. An impressive run of just two defeats - both against the Premiership champions, Chelsea, in the space of a week - in 11 games since that watershed display against the Blades has proved sufficiently encouraging to silence the agitators.

Shepherd is now painting a typically optimistic picture of unity and stability as he prepares to support Roeder with the funds to strengthen a Newcastle squad undermined by injuries throughout a troubled 2006. "Considering the injuries we've had, Glenn has done a fantastic job," he added. "In fact, I doubt even Sir Alex Ferguson could have done a better one in the circumstances. You can only go to war with what you've got."

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