THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Tuesday 16 December ~

Today’s news has centered around that headline-grabbing, glory-hunting species known as the striker. Everyone is envious of such people – we would all like to be the figurehead of our workplace, get lorded by our customers and colleagues for our achievements – despite taking credit for having only supplied the finishing touches to a collective performance – and get paid a six-figure weekly wage for our efforts. However, as Britain faces up to the credit crunch, football clubs are finally waking up to the fact that perhaps an injury-plagued forward isn’t worth those kind of riches.

Thus Newcastle United have proven their intent of keeping prize-asset Michael Owen, but only if he accepts a £25,000-a-week pay-cut, including various clauses related to the success of the player and the club over the next three years. The £80,000-a-week offer is thought to be heavily weighted to protect Newcastle from further injury setbacks, and it is unlikely Owen will sign until he is given permission in January to actively seek new employers in the last six months of his contract. Owen is likely to attract a lot of attention, with Tottenham, Everton and Manchester City all seeking established goalscorers.

Someone who should be casting his eye on Owen is Arsene Wenger. In 2001, he prematurely hailed the injury-prone flop Francis Jeffers as the “fox in the box” his side needed – and he has been looking for a penalty area specialist ever since. The Gunners are however close to welcoming back the best natural scorer in their squad as the Brazilian born Croat Eduardo is to make his long-awaited return for the reserves tonight, ten months after the horrific injury against Birmingham City that left him with a fractured fibula and dislocated ankles.

Arsenal’s reserve-team opponents tonight, Portsmouth, have been fined £15,000 for breaking Football Association rules for their dealings concerning the transfer of striker Benjani Mwarurawi to and from the club. Benjani’s representative Willy McKay, has been given a suspended ban, although Portsmouth claim to know nothing of the agent's involvement in the deal. Meanwhile, Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo have both escaped disciplinary action from FIFA and the FA respectively, for off-the-ball incidents in recent matches against Aalborg and Spurs. Perhaps the officials who decided that no action was needed simply face the prospect of fielding phone calls from an incandescent Scottish OAP currently on a working break in Japan. Rich Evans

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