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Stars wait to win over Sam


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Stars wait to win over Sam

May 9 2007

By Paul Gilder, The Journal


Several senior players are preparing for an uncertain summer at St James's Park after Glenn Roeder's resignation cast the club's long-established personnel plans into doubt.


Nolberto Solano and Antoine Sibierski are among those most at risk - with the pair having failed to sign contract extensions agreed with the hapless 51-year-old prior to his weekend departure.


Sam Allardyce is expected to succeed Roeder having been identified as the sole candidate for the vacant position. But, with club officials adamant that no appointment will be made until after the Premiership campaign has ended, Solano and Sibierski will depart the North-East for the summer with question marks surrounding their future employment.


The duo will not be alone in that, although recent developments could work in the favour of others. Titus Bramble is another whose current contract will expire this summer and although negotiations collapsed after Roeder pinned the blame for the club's Uefa Cup exit on the 25-year-old, his successor might choose to resurrect talks.


Having appeared to have fallen out with Roeder, Bramble was resigned to leaving St James's Park and seemed certain to join Portsmouth on a free transfer. But a change in management could change the situation and the defender's future will be among several issues Allardyce will be keen to resolve upon his arrival.


The 52-year-old's in-tray will be full to the brim with such matters. Craig Moore will become a free agent this summer, although the Australian's unfortunate fitness record will not make him an attractive proposition. Olivier Bernard's contract will also expire, but having failed to make a single first-team appearance following a signing that has proved an unmitigated disaster, the underemployed Frenchman can pack his suitcase with confidence.


It is Sibierski and Solano that have the most to lose and the pair must regret the one-year deals agreed with Roeder were never signed and sealed. Were Allardyce to decide that he does not want them, both players will be forced to seek work elsewhere.


As The Journal revealed last month, contractual discussions with Sibierski, Solano, Bramble and James Milner were put on hold in response to the club's alarming demise. Milner's position is less pressing considering that his current deal does not expire this summer. But following indications he would be granted a lucrative long-term extension, he will monitor developments with interest. On this season's evidence, Milner is perhaps alone in deserving a new contract.


Far from hindering his efforts, the situation could work to Allardyce's advantage, enabling him to clear the decks with minimum effort. Should he decide to, the former Bolton manager could lose Sibierski, Solano, Bramble, Moore, Bernard, Pavel Srnicek and Oguchi Onyewu (who will return to Standard Liege) without having to do anything, leaving him space in his squad for summer signings.


Sol Campbell and Sami Hyypia were among Roeder's targets, although his successor will have his own plans. Steve Sidwell was a player understood to have agreed to join United, but given this week's events his arrival is uncertain. Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool and Aston Villa were last night all reported to be pursuing the Reading midfielder. Such matters will increase Freddie Shepherd's determination to make a prompt appointment. Newcastle's chairman is keen to give Roeder's successor as much time as possible to build a successful squad.


There will be countless other issues to address. Emre remains a target for several Bundesliga clubs, whilst Albert Luque had been expected to join PSV Eindhoven on loan. The Spaniard was written off by Roeder but Allardyce has an impressive record of reviving careers on the wane and the manner in which he handles Luque will be fascinating. It is inevitable Michael Owen's future will also be called into question but having gone to such lengths to aid the striker's rehabilitation, there will be no-one at St James's Park receptive to the idea of the £17m man leaving.


Allardyce's first task will be to decide who will make up his backroom team at St James's Park. Carlisle boss Neil McDonald last night attempted to distance himself from suggestions he will be in the frame to become Allardyce's assistant, insisting: "People are just putting two and two together. Sam has not even got the job yet and I don't want to comment."

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