NEWCASTLE United boss Bobby Robson has been given the go-ahead to make a major summer transfer plunge.

Robson, whose hands have been tied by club chairman Freddy Shepherd's frugal approach after years of big spending on Tyneside, has drawn up a close-season hit-list.

Nottingham Forest's £4m-rated midfield prodigy David Prutton is among Robson's top targets.

The Magpies have been trailing the 19-year-old for two seasons and hard-up Forest are ready to cash in on their brighest prospect. Robson is also a big admirer of Aston Villa's England midfielder Lee Hendrie, who is valued at around £8m.

Leeds' former Sunderland striker Michael Bridges, still sidelined following a serious ankle injury, and Blackburn's left-sided schemer Damien Duff, figure prominently in Robson's thoughts.

But the United boss knows any hopes of luring striker Hakan Sukur from Inter Milan hinge on the Turkish international's willingness to move to the Premiership, while Southampton are in no hurry to part with Latvian forward Marian Pahars, another player Robson covets.

John Fender, chairman of United's plc board, yesterday signalled radical team strengthening as the club released their interim results for the six months to January 31. Turnover has increased to £32.2m and operating profits, before player transfers, have gone up to £6.8m.

The wage bill has been cut by 14pc with the departures of the likes of Duncan Ferguson, Didier Domi, Steve Howey, Temur Ketsbaia and Laurent Charvet.

United are enjoying the benefits of 52,000 crowds following the revamp of St. James' Park.

But while Robson has been forced to sell to finance incoming deals, performances on the pitch have taken a turn for the worse.

United are languishing in 13th place after a miserable return of two points from the last six games.

And Fender admitted: "We have the supporters and the venue - and now we must deliver the success on the pitch which everyone associated with the club expects and deserves.

"The board's commitment to this is undeterred, despite recent disappointing team performances.

"Performances on the field have suffered as a result of long-term injuries to key players, such as Carl Cort, Nikos Dabizas, Kieron Dyer and Alan Shearer.

"This has combined to make the Premier League campaign a difficult and frustrating one.''

United chief executive David Stonehouse said: "We are getting the business in better shape and moving forward.

"The reason for doing that is so we can invest in the future and bring success to the club.

"We've got ambitions. We've got the potential and we're determined we will get there - but it's not going to happen overnight.''

l Newcastle's Paraguayan winger Diego Gavilan has received a three-match ban following his sending-off in last week's reserve game against Leeds.

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