JOEY Barton was today on the brink of signing for Queens Park Rangers.
And the Newcastle United were braced for another fan backlash over the club’s transfer policy.
Barton’s exit would leave the club needing to sign three players before next Wednesday’s transfer deadline.
United boss Alan Pardew this week insisted he was confident the club would sign two players before the transfer window closes.
However, supporters, still waiting for Andy Carroll’s replacement to arrive eight months after his departure, will be sceptical about the chances of a replacement for Barton coming in before the end of the month.
Newcastle still need a left-back and a striker, with Erik Pieters the main defensive target.
The Dutch international’s agent, Piet Van Der Pol, claimed United were close to signing the £6m-rated left-back from PSV Eindhoven.
Van Der Pol said: “Newcastle’s interest is very serious and Erik finds the club a real challenge.
“I don’t know the exact numbers of Newcastle’s offer, but I’m pretty sure that the transfer will go ahead.”
Should the Pieters deal be completed in the coming days, focus will turn to the club’s long-running search for a forward.
Reports in France today claimed United had turned their attention to Brest striker Nolan Roux after being frustrated in their attempts to sign Sochaux’s Modibo Maiga.
However, the 23-year-old, at this stage, is not understood to be a target.
Even if two, or even three, more players arrive, questions will keep being asked about the club’s recruitment policy, which has repeatedly seen United end transfer windows in profit.
Kevin Nolan, Jose Enrique and Wayne Routledge have all left this summer, pulling in more than £10m. Barton’s departure, however, would not bring in any funds, which has also irritated supporters.
The midfielder – who was left out of the squad for tonight’s Carling Cup tie at Scunthorpe United – travelled to London yesterday for a medical at the Loftus Road club.
And Barton, made available on a free transfer earlier this month, was this morning completing the formalities of the move, with the 28-year-old understood to have been offered a £70,000-a-week, four-year deal by the club’s new owner, Tony Fernandes.
Barton – who has a year left on his contract – was hopeful Newcastle would react to QPR’s move by offering the new deal he has been seeking, but there appears to be no softening in the stance of United’s hierarchy.
With that not forthcoming, Barton – who had insisted early in the summer he would only leave St James’s Park for Champions League football – yesterday headed to the capital for talks.
Barton used social networking site Twitter to reveal his thoughts.
“Going for a medical now, still no contract offer from NUFC...think that just about makes my mind up,” Barton tweeted.
“Don’t want to leave Newcastle…I’ve made that clear but my hands are tied.”
Manager Alan Pardew was again conciliatory towards influential Barton in his pre-match Press conference on Tuesday, insisting the player had “answered any questions in terms of his commitment to the club”.
However, Pardew was today facing up to losing him, and Barton’s last act in a black and white shirt, maybe fittingly, could turn out to be helping the club to a win over rivals Sunderland last weekend.