Defence the priority

Last updated : 15 December 2002 By Martyn Elliott

"On days we do look creaky in defence. I'm not happy with that. I've given people a chance and we're working on it," admitted Sir Bobby to the Sunday Mirror.

"We are trying to work with Stephen Caldwell, Nikos Dabizas and Andy O'Brien.

"We moved Aaron Hughes back across to see if that would be better and it was at Aston Villa but we didn't cope with Patrick Kluivert in Barcelona as we should have and that is a concern to me.

"For us to be a really top team we might have to strengthen the defence. If it hurts one or two players, tough.

"The situation with Stam is complicated, Manchester United are owed something like £12m. If that is what Lazio want, then forget about Jaap Stam.

"We won't spend £12m on Stam, not at 30 years old. The market has come down now so the days of spending big money on a player of that age will not happen again.

"Top-quality centre halves now will cost you £6m. It's a buyers market. A lot of clubs haven't got the money.

"I loved Stam at Manchester United. In his prime he was fantastic. I have not spoken to Alex about him, but I would ring him before I would buy Stam.

"The money situation is complicated and Alex would give me a proper indication about Stam - whether he's finished or slowed down or whether he's top class and they let him go for reasons other than his playing ability.

"I was amazed when they let him go. He was tough, he defended the box and he scared people."

Its good to know that Sir Bobby is on the case and hopefully there’ll be a couple of defenders arriving in January, although I hope this won’t mean the end of either Stephen Caldwell or Aaron Hughes at St James’.

As for Stam, if he’s still anything like the player he was in Man United’s treble winning season he’d be a more than welcome addition to the squad.

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