NEWCASTLE United were today set to make a last-ditch deadline day move for Adrian Mariappa.
The club has already had three bids for Mariappa rejected by Watford, who rate the defender in the £4m-bracket.
Newcastle – whose last bid was reportedly £2.25m – won’t meet that valuation, but are expected to test manager Sean Dyce’s resolve to hold on to the 25-year-old with a final take-it-or-leave-it bid.
Mariappa, a pacy centre-half, was watched by United assistant manager John Carver and first-team coach Steve Stone in Friday night’s FA Cup tie against Tottenham Hotspur.
Carver and Stone left Vicarage Road impressed with the performance of Mariappa, having seen him keep Emmanuel Adeboyor quiet in the fourth-round tie.
Arsenal were also understood to have been represented at the game, while Swansea City are another club keen on Mariappa, who has 18 months left on his contract and is said to be keen to make the step up to the Premier League from the Championship.
Newcastle manager Alan Pardew – who signed £9m striker Papiss Demba Cisse earlier this month – has again refused to discuss the club’s targets.
However, while keeping the club’s cards close to his chest, Pardew did suggest there was a chance of a late arrival at the Sports Direct Arena.
“On the last day, there might be some movement, but nothing that will impact on us massively in or out,” said Pardew.
Papiss Demba Cisse could make his Newcastle United debut at Ewood Park – from the bench.
New No9 Cisse and 15-goal top scorer Demba Ba were today due back on Tyneside from the African Cup of Nations.
United manager Alan Pardew has revealed the club chartered a flight for the Senegal internationals in an attempt to get them back in time to face struggling Blackburn Rovers tomorrow night.
However, even if Cisse, signed from Freiburg earlier this month, and Ba are back in time to link up with their team-mates, they won’t be considered for starts.
They are likely to be among the substitutes at Ewood Park, flights permitting.
“The situation with Papiss and Demba is that I’m hoping, a small hope, they can make the bench,” said Pardew.
“The flights are such that you couldn’t them to feature from the start, but there is a chance they could be involved on the bench.”
“We are trying to organise extra flights and throw a bit of money at it to get them here. It’s something that we are prepared to do.”
Senegal, already eliminated after two defeats, lost their third and final African Nations Cup group game to Libya on Sunday.
They had been the tournament’s third-favourites, and Pardew – whose side take on Aston Villa at St James’s Park on Sunday – admits he hadn’t expected Cisse and Ba back so early.
“The truth is we didn’t expect them to play in this game, or at Villa,” said Pardew.
“I said all along if we could win a couple of games in the league without them, we’d do OK. We’ve won one against Queens Park Rangers.
“If we can win one of the next two games, and get Cisse settled in quickly, we have a great chance of having as good second half of the season as we have in the first half.”
Meanwhile, Newcastle midfielder Cheik Tiote and his Ivory Coast team-mates will face co-hosts Equatorial Guinea in the quarter finals.
They beat Angola 2-0 in Malabo last night to maintain their 100 per cent record in the tournament so far.