ALAN Pardew remains confident he will land a new centre-half before the transfer window closes in eight days time, but the Newcastle United manager is having to compile a list of alternatives to his preferred long-term targets.
Pardew flew to Tenerife hours after watching his Magpies side crash to their heaviest defeat of the season on Saturday as the concession of four goals in a dramatic 16-minute spell contributed to a 5-2 thumping at Fulham.
The Newcastle boss will oversee a warm-weather training camp on the Spanish island and is not due to return to the North-East until Wednesday, but will continue to monitor a number of transfer issues as he attempts to strengthen his defence in the final week of the window.
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Despite the £9m arrival of Papiss Cisse last Tuesday, Pardew still has around £7m available to spend on a new defender.
However, despite inquiring about a number of players since the transfer window opened at the start of the month, the Magpies manager is still no nearer securing a replacement for the injured Steven Taylor, who is expected to miss the remainder of the campaign.
West Ham have rejected Newcastle's bid for James Tomkins, and while there has been further contact between the two clubs, Hammers boss Sam Allardyce is refusing to lower his £8m valuation of the 22-year-old.
Similarly, Pardew has accepted that Middlesbrough will not sell Rhys Williams for less than that figure, and while he travelled to the Riverside to watch the Australian at first hand earlier this month, the Newcastle boss does not feel he is yet at a level to justify such an outlay.
Ajax's Jan Vertonghen is more developed, but the Dutch club are understood to have quoted an asking price of £10m, a sum that is outside United's price range.
As a result, Pardew has begun to turn his attention to a range of 'tier-two' signings, players who could arrive to do a job in the second half of the season, but who would leave him with sufficient funds to re-enter the transfer market in the summer.
Newcastle scouts have watched Watford's Adrian Mariappa and Brighton's Lewis Dunk repeatedly this season, and the duo are both regarded as viable options. Mariappa, a 25-year-old centre-half, could be available for around £2m, a price that reflects his complete lack of top-flight experience, but which could potentially enable Newcastle to sell him on at a profit in the future.
Pardew has also been running the rule over Middlesbrough skipper Matthew Bates, who is out of contract at the end of the season and could therefore potentially be available for a reduced fee.
“We want to bring a defender in,” said the Newcastle boss, who watched his side produce their worst defensive display of the season as a Clint Dempsey hat-trick and penalties from Danny Murphy and Bobby Zamora earned Fulham a comprehensive win. “I've talked about it before and it's something we'll definitely be looking to do.
“We need to do something if we can because we haven't really got any cover at all at the back. If we were to suffer an injury at centre-half, we'd suddenly look very vulnerable. We're away until Wednesday now, but the phone will be switched on and I'll be monitoring things.”
The hope, for Newcastle fans, is that an experienced defender arrives to provide competition to Fabricio Coloccini and Mike Williamson, who was at least partially responsible for a number of Fulham's goals at the weekend. The fear is that Mike Ashley will be persuaded to accept a last-minute offer for one of Newcastle's leading lights.
At this stage, however, there has been no formal inquiries for either Cheik Tiote, Demba Ba or Tim Krul.
Ba, like Cisse, is currently in Equatorial Guinea representing Senegal in the Africa Cup of Nations, but the pair's stay could yet be shorter than expected after their side slumped to a shock 2-1 defeat to Zambia in their opening game.
Ba started the match, while Cisse came off the substitutes' bench in an unsuccessful attempt to turn things around, and Senegal will have to improve markedly in their remaining group games against Equatorial Guinea and Libya if they are not to make an early exit from the competition.
The pair's early return would provide a major boost to Pardew, who will not be bolstering his attacking ranks with the acquisition of trialist Jason Prior.
Prior has been on trial from non-league side Bognor Regis, but despite suggestions he would figure in Thursday's reserves game with Manchester United, it is understood Newcastle have decided they will not be taking their interest in the Ryman League player any further.