Middlesbrough striker Mark Viduka is understood to have agreed in principle to join north-east rivals Newcastle.
His 19 goals last season - seven of them in his last five starts - were key to Boro's successful fight against relegation from the Barclays Premiership and took his tally for the club to 42 in 100 appearances, 20 of them as a substitute. [emphasis mine -j.]That's the key. Viduka plays hard when his next payday is the issue. So you invariably get goals from him in August, December, and April. Then he'll go quiet for months at a time. I sure hope Big Sam realizes this. Maybe they'll structure his contract in such a way that he only gets paid when he scores. Or they'll make him sign a series of short-term (like a month at a time) deals. Anything they can do to keep him focused.
Now, is Big Sam going to bring his 4-3-3 to Newcastle? Viduka is certainly the mold of the big center forward he likes. See Davies, Kevin. (As an aside, what would Big Sam have done with Shearer? Wow. Imagine his glee at having the original at his disposal.) But are Owen and Martins the wide attackers he wants? Certainly Duff and Milner would be naturals. In fact, wouldn't a front line of Duff, Viduka, and Milner playing in front of Parker, Barton, and Butt suit Sam nicely? It would be like Bolton but with better quality players. But how do you leave out £17 million worth of striker? Going to be interesting, especially for fantasy managers, how Big Sam works it out.
And can we start the Speed to Newcastle rumours right here and now? He's a former and still much beloved player. He knows and thrives under Allardyce's system. Makes much more sense to me that Sam would go back to Bolton for Speed, rather than Nolan or Diouf.
As for Boro, they now have to replace (and hopefully for them, increase) Viduka's goal tally. Perhaps they should be looking for a bit more mobility to complement Yakubu. In fact, they might just have to replace Yakubu too if his on again, off again relationship with the Nigerian national team is on again for January's African Nations Cup. I think they could do worse than look to prise Louis Saha AND Alan Smith from Manchester United. That would give them the options they would want, and by offering for both players, might sweeten the deal for ManU who have already spent a ton of money, but are still looking for another striker themselves.