Newcastle in turmoil after N'Zogbia sparks war of words

Frenchman draws riposte from Joe Kinnear over vow 'never to play' for him again
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The Independent Online

A night of fast-moving drama at Newcastle United ended with manager Joe Kinnear responding to Charles N'Zogbia's earlier declaration that he will never play for the club again while Kinnear is manager with Kinnear accusing his French midfielder of trying to engineer a move out of St James' Park.

The developments came hours after Shay Given submitted a written transfer request, Newcastle agreed fees with Bolton Wanderers for Kevin Nolan and with Wigan Athletic for Ryan Taylor and the news that a metatarsal injury to Joey Barton rules him out for the season. Thus Newcastle's hitherto dormant January burst into life.

N'Zogbia claimed last night that a television interview with Kinnear following Newcastle's 2-1 defeat at Manchester City, when Kinnear stumbled over the pronunciation of N'Zogbia's surname and sounded as if he referred to him as "Insomnia", was "insulting".

"Having been insulted by Joe Kinnear, I will never play for him again while he remains Newcastle manager," N'Zogbia said via a statement. "The club are aware that there are offers on the table for me and they should accept one of them."

Having heard repeated recent comments in France allegedly emanating from N'Zogbia about his desire to leave the club – the French midfielder was also involved in a training ground scrap with colleague Andy Carroll last week – Kinnear replied late last night that N'Zogbia's fury is merely a mechanism to help him exit Newcastle.

"Sadly, this just smacks of a desperate attempt to engineer a move away from Newcastle United," said Kinnear. "OK, I got a little tongue-tied, but if I had a pound for every time I've mis-pronounced a player's name down the years, then I'd be a very wealthy man indeed."

The recruitment of Taylor may be helpful to N'Zogbia, 22. Wigan are one of the clubs to have expressed interest in N'Zogbia and Taylor's arrival on Tyneside this morning could be used as part of the negotiating process.

Taylor is out of contract in the summer and is valued at £4m by Wigan. He has a habit of scoring against Newcastle, can play right-back in the absence of Habib Beye as well as in midfield. Taylor's potential recruitment – along with Nolan he is expected at the Newcastle training ground this morning – is part of owner Mike Ashley's response to Wednesday night's dismal loss at City, the fourth in five league games.

At 26, Nolan will cost Newcastle £4.5m and offers much-needed experience to a disintegrating midfield. If they pass their medicals, Nolan and Taylor will make their debuts in Sunday's Tyne-Wear derby with Sunderland at St. James'.

A third signing, Marco Donadel, of Fiorentina, is believed to be close to joining and there were reports of interest in Sporting Lisbon's Miguel Veloso. Donadel is a former Italy under-21 captain.

Barton has fractured an outside metatarsal and the initial diagnosis is that he will be out for three months. Effectively that means a return to training in May, close to the season's end.

Like N'Zogbia, Given failed to travel south to Manchester for Wednesday's match. Ashley spoke to the Irish goalkeeper directly on Monday but Given is determined to leave. To date City have offered £5m for Given but despite Ashley being at Eastlands on Wednesday, it is understood he left the stadium without a deal on Given's sale being reached. Given's request yesterday means that he forfeits a testimonial due to him after nearly twelve years at the club and should aid the process of departure.

Given is distraught that it has come to this. For the past five transfer windows he has publicly questioned Newcastle's lack of activity in the market. Kinnear has accepted that Given will leave.

Barton's was not the only injury from Wednesday. Five days before Newcastle host Sunderland , Michael Owen also limped off. Initially Kinnear said this was another cracked bone but Owen has actually damaged ligaments in his left ankle. Owen will visit a specialist today but the expectation is that the England striker will be out for one month at least.

The fresh injury news was all part of the gloom on Tyneside yesterday, a feeling reflected in the fact that Sunday's derby is not yet sold out. New signings may go some way to soothing frayed tempers among Newcastle fans who share Kinnear's pessimism.

"I am well aware we are in a relegation battle," he said after the City defeat, "but we do not have the right equipment to fight it at the moment."

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