West Ham go for Young after Viduka move stalls

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The Independent Football

West Ham United will make a move for Ashley Young, who seems certain to leave Watford this month, should their attempts to sign Shaun Wright-Phillips for £10m from Chelsea fail.

The Hammers have also had a £500,000 bid for Mark Viduka rejected, even though the striker - with his current contract expiring this summer - has now informed Middlesbrough he will not sign a new deal. If the Australian striker does not move to West Ham, who may increase their offer, he will sign a pre-contract agreement with an Italian club, thought to be Genoa.

West Ham yesterday completed the £5m signing of Luis Boa Morte from Fulham and are set to hand the winger his debut in the FA Cup tie against Brighton today. Matthew Etherington is still expected to move to Fulham but, after a hitch on Thursday night, that deal may not be completed until later this month.

West Ham, who believe they have the spending power to reach most of their transfer targets and are desperate to avoid relegation, are keen to make signings before they sell. They are expecting most of the departures to happen in the summer rather than now.

A deal remains in place to sign Wright-Phillips, with Chelsea understood to have accepted the fee on offer, but the winger wants to stay at Stamford Bridge. West Ham have said they will match the £50,000-a-week wages he earns at Chelsea but, yesterday, Wright-Phillips was still telling friends he believed he has a future with the Premiership champions.

If West Ham cannot persuade him to move, they will turn their attentions to Young. Watford have already rejected three offers for the England Under-21 international. Tottenham - who are understood to have offered Calum Davenport and Wayne Routledge in exchange - Arsenal and Aston Villa are interested along with Liverpool. Despite the stiff competition, it may well be that West Ham are the only club willing to pay the £5m-plus that Watford are seeking for the player.

West Ham are planning at least five new arrivals and last night it appeared that they were about to hijack Charlton's deal to sign their former midfielder Alexei Smertin. The Russian international has fallen out with his club, Dinamo Moscow, over wages and is keen to return to the Premiership. Charlton held talks with him before Christmas but West Ham have now stepped in. If Smertin signs, it will probably end West Ham's interest in West Bromwich's Nigel Quashie.

West Ham enquired about another West Bromwich player, John Hartson, but it is unlikely that deal will go ahead, while Blackburn's Lucas Neill has told them he is moving either to Liverpool or Newcastle. West Ham were also keen to sign Sylvain Distin, out of contract at Manchester City in the summer, and are willing to pay the £50,000 a week he is demanding. City are understood to have said they will not sell the defender and are prepared for him to leave for free.

West Ham are still scouring the Premiership for a right-back but may turn to Juventus' French defender, Jonathan Zebina, who was close to joining Spurs last year. West Ham are not interested in Birmingham's Matthew Upson and have not made a move for Spurs' Anthony Gardner.

Javier Mascherano is still expected to complete his move to Liverpool though the deal remains subject to Fifa agreeing dispensation for the midfielder.

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