AFTER watching Michael Owen climb to within nine goals of becoming England's all-time leading goalscorer, Sam Allardyce last night admitted his toughest task as Newcastle United manager will be to keep the clinical striker on Tyneside for the rest of his career.

Owen's emphatic brace for his country against Russia on Wednesday took him on to 40 goals in 85 internationals, despite spending a large chunk of two seasons on the treatment table.

And, after drawing a blank in his first few appearances since recovering from a troublesome thigh problem, the 27-year-old has since gone onto score five goals in his last four appearances for club and country.

It is that sort of form which has led Allardyce to suggest that the Premier League's top four clubs were wrong not to match the £9m release clause that had been in his contract through the summer.

If Owen continues his fine displays until January it is difficult to see how one of Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea or Liverpool will stay away.

Allardyce just wants him to stay fit and focused on becoming a Newcastle legend.

"If Michael stays fit, carries on enjoying playing for Newcastle then yes (he could stay here for the rest of his career)," Allardyce said.

"There is no question about that. In full flow he is a fearsome prospect for any defence.

"I have to try to keep him fit and help him steer clear of the niggly injuries. We cannot compensate for the serious ones, that can happen.

"If we can keep him clear of hamstring, thigh injuries and the like, he is going to be enjoying his football even more.

"Having just got back from injury in such a short period of time, not really being 100 per cent fit, he has really done well. And the boost in confidence over the last four games has escalated his fitness rapidly. He probably woke up on Thursday morning and didn't feel tired."

Allardyce will be looking for Owen to show that freshness in training over the next couple of days so he will have no worries about fielding him at Derby on Monday night.

If Owen does play he will be looking to score only his ninth Premier League goal in a Newcastle shirt.

"Those clubs didn't want to risk it on the past record, clearly," said Allardyce.

"Otherwise, based on what has happened over the last few games, £9m would have been a bargain.

"Hindsight is a wonderful thing. But hopefully we will make him so happy that he won't want to leave. I want to have that affect on everyone.

"We want to keep all our top players and if we are building a football club you need to do that.

"Michael will decide what he wants to do.

"A player of that calibre will decide what he wants if he stays fit. If he likes where he is and is enjoying himself then he will enter negotiations with us."

With Mark Viduka available after sustaining a hamstring problem in the win over Wigan on September 1, Allardyce must decide whether to keep Shola Ameobi in attack or name the Australian.

Either way the Newcastle boss considers both men as being the perfect foil for Owen or Obafemi Martins to work off - in a similar way to how Emile Heskey's presence brings the best out of Owen.

"Michael has always liked playing with a big man," said Allardyce. "He has said he prefers to play off a big man and he does not just mean Emile Heskey.

"I am never satisfied but the type of form Michael is showing can only help. The partnerships between him and Mark, Shola, Oba - they are the important things we work on. Working in pairs is what it is all about, getting an understanding. It is a long haul but the potential of the squad has not been realised here."

Turkish midfielder Emre looks set to depart in January. He has only played once this season for Newcastle - a Carling Cup fixture against Barnsley - and has spoken of a desire to join Galatasaray.

And, given how he has returned feeling tired from playing for his country when he had travelled to Turkey with an injury, Allardyce is quite rightly frustrated.

"Emre has come back injured," said the Newcastle boss. "He picked it up in the second half on Wednesday and he couldn't complete the game. I'm not sure of the extent but it's disappointing. He left us injured but playing for Turkey has left him fatigued."

Emre figured in Saturday's 2-2 in Malta, while he was an unused substitute in Wednesday's 3-0 win over Hungary.

Tottenham manager Martin Jol insists his team selection for tomorrow's north London derby will not be affected by Pascal Chimbonda's questioning by police this week.

The 28-year-old was arrested by City of London police on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud and bailed until October.

Jol said: ''Pascal trained Monday and Tuesday, yesterday he was off so there is no issue. He will train today, so for me there's no problem.'' The City of London police are carrying out an investigation into corruption in football that is separate to the inquiry by Lord Stevens' firm Quest.

Chimbonda was the second person to be arrested by the force's investigation team - a 61-year-old man was arrested in Manchester in March on suspicion of money laundering.

In July, officers from the City of London police carried out raids at Newcastle, Portsmouth and Rangers and took away computers and documents. Deals involving Chimbonda's agent Willie McKay are also reported to be under investigation by officers but he has insisted repeatedly that he has done nothing wrong.