Newcastle United's faltering summer recruitment drive was knocked back once again yesterday when Anton Ferdinand pulled out of transfer negotiations with the club. The West Ham defender was one of a group of players the club's London-based transfer team had hoped to sign.
Although West Ham were prepared to part with the former England Under-21 international, Ferdinand himself was understood to be less than keen on moving to the North-east. It leaves Newcastle in a predicament, with their only two signings in the transfer window the Argentine winger Jonas Gutierrez from Real Mallorca and Danny Guthrie, the Liverpool midfielder who was on loan at Bolton Wanderers last season.
While Ferdinand, 23, was hardly likely to change the club's fortunes single-handedly, Newcastle are badly short of cover in central defence. They had counted on signing the Manchester City captain, Richard Dunne, but that deal has come to nothing with the new manager Mark Hughes' arrival at Eastlands.
Given that this was intended to be a summer of rebuilding at St James', the job still looks far from done. In terms of defenders, David Rozenhal, Stephen Carr and Peter Ramage have all left this summer.
Newcastle's transfer business is conducted from London by the three-man team of Dennis Wise, Tony Jimenez and Jeff Vetere. Their views on transfers have not always chimed with those of the club's manager, Kevin Keegan, although they were in agreement over Peter Crouch, who also turned down Newcastle. At this rate, it would appear that they are being forced to look a long way down their list of potential targets.
West Ham will continue in their attempts to offload Ferdinand as they trim a vastly inflated wage bill. They valued him at £6m, with Newcastle by far the most interested party. Tottenham and Aston Villa are also believed to have expressed an interest. Bobby Zamora and John Pantsil last night completed a joint £6.3m move to Fulham, while Lucas Neill and Craig Bellamy are believed to be available for the right price.
* Birmingham have confirmed that Franck Queudrue can leave the Championship club on a free transfer. The French defender, who cost £2m from Fulham last summer, was strongly criticised for his performances for the club by co-owner David Sullivan at the end of last season.