Boro battle for Downing as Spurs up bid to £12m

Winger frustrated as club reject transfer request but Redknapp remains keen
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The Independent Football

Tottenham Hotspur have made a revised bid of £12m for Stewart Downing which the Spurs' manager Harry Redknapp described yesterday as a "fantastic offer".

Downing, the Middlesbrough winger who put in a transfer request yesterday which the club rejected, as well as the improved offer, was the subject of a bid from Spurs last week of about £6m, a sum that Boro chief executive Keith Lamb described as "derisory." Spurs' offer has doubled for the 24-year-old England international. He signed a new contract last year but his father, also called Stewart, revealed yesterday why his son had put in a transfer request. He said: "Stewart's been frustrated since the summer. When he signed his new contract, he was assured there would be significant investment in the squad.

"He feels the club haven't matched those expectations. He's also frustrated the team is once again struggling in the Premier League.

"Obviously as a Middlesbrough lad, he's thought long and hard about the decision to hand in a transfer request and he also hopes the fans will understand his reasons for doing so."

Lamb responded last night: "We received a written transfer request from Stewart. It was considered before being rejected. Prior to receiving the request we received an improved offer for Stewart from Tottenham. We immediately rejected this offer and informed Tottenham that Stewart is not for sale.

"I have categorically told [Spurs chairman] Daniel Levy their interest is not welcome, nor will we entertain any further offers for Stewart."

Redknapp desperately wants reinforcements for his squad, which he yesterday described as thinner and weaker than the Portsmouth one he took to the FA Cup final last year, and he has made Downing and Ports- mouth's Jermain Defoe his two top priorities.

Despite Boro's rebuff Redknapp hopes Levy, Spurs' chairman, can tie up a deal for both players quickly, with the club involved in a fight against relegation. After playing Burnley in the first leg of their Carling Cup semi-final tonight, their next Premier League game is away against Wigan Athletic on Sunday. They need strength in depth as they face Manchester United in the fourth round of the FA Cup and are still in the Uefa Cup.

Tottenham made an offer of about £10m for Defoe last week, which Portsmouth rejected immediately, as they value the 26-year-old England striker nearer £20m. Redknapp also knows that they are not certain to get Downing. He said: "If Boro don't want to sell him, end of story. People can make bids. No one's forcing anyone to sell anybody. I know my chairman's been back and made a fantastic offer. If they don't want to sell him, end of story – you just say no.

"If Downing wants to leave he's got his reasons, and if Defoe's got reasons he wants to leave and come back to Spurs where he's played before, fine, but if we can't agree a deal then we don't take him. If Pompey don't want to sell him they just have to say so.

"I wouldn't sell him if I was manager of Portsmouth and Spurs came in for him. Same for Downing. If I wanted to keep him, I wouldn't sell him.

"I would be keeping Defoe if I was still at Portsmouth. But Portsmouth said they would do a deal at the right price. Obviously they're quite keen to do a deal if the money's right. But the money for Defoe at the moment between the two clubs is not right."

Boro only recruited Didier Digard, Marvin Emnes and Justin Hoyte during the summer – which has apparently frustrated Downing – but funded their recruitment drive largely from the proceeds of selling Luke Young to Aston Villa and Lee Cattermole to Wigan.

They turned down Downing's request yesterday evening and chairman Steve Gibson has insisted neither he, nor any of the club's other big names, will be allowed to leave this month. Boro value Downing at around £15m, and while manager Gareth Southgate accepts there is a point at which the Teessiders could not afford to hold out as they attempt to balance the books, Gibson was adamant last week.

The chairman said: "We have rejected an offer from Spurs for Stewart Downing. I have categorically told [Spurs chairman] Daniel Levy their interest is not welcome, nor will we entertain any further offers for Stewart. Nor will we will entertain offers for any other senior members of our squad. None of our senior players will be leaving this month. As far as we are concerned, this is now the end of the matter.

"We have got a talented group of players and it's time for us to knuckle down and focus on the job in hand."

Gibson's determination to hang on to the star graduate of the club's renowned academy is understandable – Boro currently lie in 17th place in the league, clear of Stoke City, who are inside the drop zone, only on goal difference.

Southgate knows he will have nothing to spend other than that which he can raise himself, and if he believes Downing's heart is elsewhere – something he insisted was not the case at the weekend – he may have a decision to make. That is exactly what happened with striker Ayegbeni Yakubu during the summer of 2007 when, after weeks of speculation, the Teessiders decided to accept Everton's £11.25m offer for a player they felt had already moved on in his own head.

Back at Spurs, Redknapp is close to signing Stephen Appiah, the Ghana international captain, who is a free agent after being released by Turkish club Fenerbahce of Istanbul. Appiah, 28 last month and a former Juventus midfielder, is training with Spurs this week and available on a free transfer. Redknapp has also made enquiries about bringing Pascal Chimbonda, the French right-back, back to Spurs on loan from Sunderland, which they rejected. Chimbonda, 29, moved from Spurs to the north-east last summer.

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