SUNDERLAND manager Howard Wilkinson last night insisted he isn't envious of rivals Newcastle United following their £9m swoop for Jonathan Woodgate.

While England centre-back Woodgate yesterday completed his move to Tyneside from Leeds, former Elland Road boss Wilkinson was restricted to the loan signing of little-known Moroccan international Talal el Karkouri.

The Paris St. Germain stopper has joined the Black Cats until the end of the season with a possible view to a permanent deal.

The stark contrast in the deals highlights the polarisation in Tyne-Wear fortunes.

Wilkinson knows Woodgate well, having helped to nurture his talent in the Teessider's early days with Leeds.

But Wilkinson, managing in a financial strait-jacket with his club £25m in debt, maintained: "Seriously, I'm not envious of Newcastle. It wouldn't help me to be looking at other situations. This is the situation I'm in. I knew from the start what the parameters were.

"Jonathan is a good player. In a sense he's coming home because he's lived up here most of his life.''

Wilkinson said he would have "no qualms'' about pitching el Karkouri straight into Sunderland's relegation fight when they host Charlton Athletic this afternoon.

The Wearsiders were yesterday confident they would receive international clearance as 26-year-old el Karkouri jetted into the North-East from Paris.

Wilkinson said: "I need to talk to him, but in theory I would have no qualms about throwing him in.

"At the moment, it's a loan to the end of the season, but there's obviously the possibility of something else after that.

"I've seen him in two games, and that was enough. He's had a good schooling in France and has become a regular with PSG.

"He's played in the UEFA Cup during his three years there. He's strong in the air and, having played in France, has good technical ability.

"I had two possible targets this week and I'm pleased to have at least secured the services of one of them.''

El Karkouri is surplus to requirements as PSG are feeling the Europe-wide pinch and looking to reduce their wage bill.

Wilkinson has had to contend with a crippling casualty list, which has been lengthened by a groin injury to Phil Babb.

The former Republic of Ireland international's substitution in Tuesday's abysmal 1-0 home defeat by Southampton was greeted with cheers from home fans.

But Wilkinson explained: "Phil Babb has been carrying a groin injury. While it hasn't stopped him playing, it has been a problem and continues to be a problem.''

Wilkinson stressed his side "must perform'' against Charlton to ease their plight near the foot of the Premiership table.

The Black Cats' boss admitted after the Southampton game that his side's display was "unacceptable''.

Sunderland are second bottom, two points adrift of a position of safety, and Wilkinson revealed: "I haven't got over the anger yet. I'm angry with the situation we're in and I'm angry that we can't seem to move things forward.''

Meanwhile, Wilkinson spoke up for the introduction of the transfer window, saying: "I thought it was a good idea and I think we should stick with it.

"I think there are a lot of advantages in having selling and buying limited to certain periods.

"I think it leads to great stability at a club, because it cuts out a lot of speculation and gives you guarantees. I also think it's a truer test of a coach's ability.

"The current financial state of football has been an accident waiting to happen.

"Everybody talks about the fantasy of football and living the dream.

"But the dream can so quickly become a nightmare.''

* Sunderland made use of Middlesbrough's indoor training facilities at their Hurworth complex yesterday after the pitches at the Charlie Hurley Centre at Whitburn were declared unfit.

Wilkinson, who was stuck in his car for four-and-a-half hours when the blizzards descended on Thursday night, said: "It's the nearest I've been to Siberia. Our training facilities are covered in seven inches of snow. It was horrendous.

"I approached Middlesbrough and they kindly said yes. Clubs help each other all the time."

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