Allardyce lines up Viduka move

Newcastle are ready to renew their interest in out-of-contract Middlesbrough striker Mark Viduka.

Newcastle are ready to renew their interest in out-of-contract Middlesbrough striker Mark Viduka.

It is understood the Magpies, who failed in a bid to take the 31-year-old to St James' Park in January after courting him last summer, are preparing to offer him another option as his deal at the Riverside Stadium draws to a close.

The Australia international, in his native country ahead of their Asian Cup campaign, admitted last weekend that he is agonising over his future.

Two goals in the 3-1 final day victory over Fulham took his tally for the season to 19 and gave the Teessiders and their fans even greater cause to hope he will accept the extension which has been on the table for some time.

Chairman Steve Gibson even called him personally on Monday to urge him to stay.

However, Viduka, who joined Boro in a £4.5m (€6.5m) move from Leeds in July 2004, is keeping his options open with Newcastle, Manchester United, Portsmouth, West Ham and Genoa among the clubs linked with him in recent weeks.

Manager Gareth Southgate is hoping for an answer within the next week or so but, as new Magpies boss Sam Allardyce prepares for talks with Michael Owen and Obafemi Martins, the former Croatia Zagreb and Celtic hitman is in his sights.

Allardyce has held initial talks with chairman Freddy Shepherd over his spending plans, and the release of five players earlier this week freed up space within the squad he inherited from Glenn Roeder.

Viduka's contractual situation means he would be available on a free transfer, and the same applies to Israel international defender Tal Ben Haim.

The 25-year-old is also back in his own country as he considers the offer of a new deal from Bolton with Chelsea and Tottenham both reportedly looking on from a distance.

However, the former Maccabi Tel Aviv stopper thrived under Allardyce at the Reebok Stadium and with the recruitment of commanding defenders the main focus at St James', the manager's interest is no surprise.

Whether or not there are to be further departures remains to be seen with the futures of Owen, Martins, Kieron Dyer, Charles N'Zogbia and Emre among those to be resolved.

Central defender Steven Taylor too is seeking talks over his contract.

The 21-year-old, who has two years of his current deal to run, claims he was promised improved terms when he reached 50 senior starts, something he achieved more than a year ago.

Talks with his representatives are yet to materialise, and home-grown Taylor, who has established himself as a crowd favourite this season, is hoping that will happen once he returns from a family holiday amid interest from Liverpool and Tottenham.

Meanwhile, Allardyce today urged the Toon Army to turn St James' into a fortress once again as the club announced a freeze on prices for season ticket renewals.

Attendances at the 52,000-plus-capacity stadium dropped below 50,000 for Barclays Premiership games on six occasions this season, and poor performances - Roeder's side won only seven of their 19 home league games - contributed to a subdued atmosphere at times.

Allardyce said: "One of my first jobs will be to address our home form. Our success next season will be built around how well we do at St James' Park.

"I know during my early days at Bolton, it was an extremely hard place to come and I was always delighted if I could leave with a point.

"We have the players to beat any team at St James' and, with the right team spirit and a few additions, I am sure that will happen next year.

"Getting results at home is so important because it sends your supporters home happy, and it is up to me to make sure that happens.

"I know what it is like to come here as an opposing manager and have 50,000 Newcastle fans getting right behind their team.

"Now it is great to know I will have that support on my side at St James' Park.

"I want this to be a place where teams know we are going to be very difficult to beat.

"With the help of the fans, I want us to build something special here. Their backing is so important for us."

Ironically, Newcastle's lowest league attendance of the season - 48,145 - came as Allardyce's Bolton side won 2-1 on Tyneside on October 15.

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