Newcastle in for Ferguson but vow to keep star pair

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The Independent Football

The unpredictability of Newcastle United was in evidence again yesterday when manager Joe Kinnear said that he had made an offer for Rangers captain Barry Ferguson, the 30-year-old midfielder who left the Premier League four years ago this month. News of the bid came as Kinnear reiterated his desire to retain goalkeeper Shay Given and star striker Michael Owen as Newcastle players. Kinnear described the pair as "untouchables".

"I have enquired about Ferguson, but we will wait and see what the outcome of that is," Kinnear said prior to yesterday's 0-0 draw in the FA Cup at Hull City.

"We are finding it difficult to bring in certain players from clubs. Our bids haven't been accepted so far. The problem is two or three clubs are in for the same players. At the moment, there could be teams bidding more than us.

"It would help if I could move some of the players here and get the finances in that way. But we have had no bids for them."

Ferguson had 18 months in England with Blackburn Rovers but during that time was repeatedly said to be homesick.

But Kinnear first has to offload recent acquisitions such as £6m Jose Enrique, bought by Sam Allardyce, and £5.7m Xisco, apparently bought by Dennis Wise to Kevin Keegan's consternation. Neither Spaniard, particularly Xisco, has made the required impact at St James' Park, but there do not seem to be any takers in La Liga.

Kinnear, whose public utterances can be contradictory, said last month that he had been assured of £12m to spend on two experienced Premier League defenders. On Friday, he suggested that he would have to sell to buy.

But Given, who may be the subject of a bid from Manchester City this week, is not one of those players that Kinnear wishes to see leave, despite the statement from Given's solicitor on Thursday night that revealed the extent of the Irish goalkeeper's "despondency".

However, Kinnear said the situation could be taken out of his hands. Owner Mike Ashley will make the final decision.

"I just hope it never comes down to Mike suggesting to me that I sell Shay Given in order to free up funds," Kinnear said. "If you've got the best goalkeeper in the Premier League it's the last place you'd want to weaken in our situation. So I hope it never comes to that. I'd tell Mike Shay must stay. Shay's never suggested he wants to leave but I'd say it would be a no-go situation.

"If we were in the top six who knows what might happen but the fact is we're still fighting relegation so it's more important for me to keep my best players. I've got a small squad as it is. It's going to be very tough for us for the second half of the season and we still need to get another 16 or 18 points.

"As far as I'm concerned, Shay and Michael Owen are committed to the club, Michael until the summer and Shay until 2011. Until I hear something different, that's the situation. If that changes then I'll answer those questions. Shay is an untouchable as far as I'm concerned. Shay and Michael are untouchable in January and there's no chance I'd sell."

Middlesbrough's Stewart Downing is in a similar position to Given but Downing's preferred destination is Tottenham and the London club have offered a sum described as "derisory" by a senior figure at Boro yesterday. Boro do not want to sell Downing this month but would be forced to consider that possibility if they received a bid of £10m or more. But it is understood that Spurs offered in the region of £6m.

In other business yesterday, Manchester City completed the signing of Chelsea left-back Wayne Bridge for an undisclosed fee. The 28-year-old England defender, who is thought to have cost City about £10m, joins the big spenders on a four-and-a-half-year deal.

"He's of the right quality and he's the type of player we need to attract," said City manager Mark Hughes, whose side crashed out of the FA Cup at home to Nottingham Forest yesterday.

Hughes has been a long-time admirer of Bridge, saying: "He is a player I knew when I was at Southampton and he was coming through the ranks. He was outstanding and has progressed year on year."