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Full-back shake-up at Palace

Dec 10 2004

By James Gill

TWO full-backs are looking to secure new deals at Selhurst Park. One is definitely staying put, while another could be on his way out.

Right-back Emmerson Boyce is currently in talks with Crystal Palace to extend his two-year deal by an additional 12 months.

Palace are also looking to open negotiations with left-back Gary Borrowdale. Two clubs, one understood to be Reading, have been told that right-back Danny Butterfield is not for sale - "the answer is a firm no," said Palace manager Iain Dowie - while Danny Granville could leave in the summer, having turned down the chance of a new contract over the close season.

"Danny was offered a new deal in the summer," said Palace boss Iain Dowie. "Let's make no bones about that. It would have been a longer-term deal in the summer. He decided to run with his current deal.

"To be fair, it would have been a restructuring of the deal he is on. But it would have meant a much longer-term deal. He decided he wants to stay on his current deal. We will see when the summer comes."

Motherwell's highly-rated left-back Steven Hammell, 22, is being targeted as a possible replacement, although Celtic are also interested in the Scotland international.

Palace will not need to look elsewhere for right-backs, with Boyce and Butterfield in place. Dowie is hopeful Boyce will sign improved terms, which will keep him at Palace until 2007.

"He has been fantastic," said Dowie. "He will get the recognition he deserves shortly. We need to revamp him because he needs to be put on parity with other players. He is one we are in the process of doing. He is a proper player. He is the epitomy of the modern day Premiership footballer."

Boyce was entitled to new terms once he reached the 10-game mark for Palace. Few would have predicted the defender would sail past the milestone as early as October.

"On my side it might be a bit of luck, because Danny Butterfield got injured early," said Boyce. "It gave me the opportunity. Whether the manager was going to put me in straight away or not was another question.

"It has come quicker than everybody expected. I try put 100 per cent in and go for the next target. Obviously the contract will come along and when it does I'll be happy. The main thing is to play as many games as I can."

Boyce's success vindicates Dowie's belief that the Football League is scattered with gems waiting to be unearthed.

"I am living everyone's dream outside of the Premiership," said Boyce. "There's loads of talent out there. Luckily for me, Iain and Bob Dowie took their chance on me. There are many players out there in the Championship, League One and Two that are good enough to play in the Premiership. It is up to the managers to take a chance."

Palace have already been linked with Crewe forward Dean Ashton, although Dowie believes the former England Under-21 international is likely to go elsewhere. Crewe boss Dario Gradi is unlikely to sell him in the January transfer window, but could offload him at the end of the season as Ashton's contract runs out in summer 2006. Birmingham, Aston Villa and Spurs are also believed to be interested.

Heidar Helguson reportedly remains a target, as does Brescia midfielder Matias Almeyda. West Brom are also said to be interested in Almeyda. The league position of both clubs come January will play a key role in Almeyda's future, not to mention the financial package on offer.

Palace will also offer Wayne Routledge a new improved contract in the next few days.

"We will get to a position where we know either way, sooner rather than later," said Dowie. "We had some discussions with Wayne that will continue. He is a player, I will reiterate, that I want to keep."

It is understood that Palace will offer the England Under-21 international a five-year deal. "We will do what we can to reward the lad and make him realise all his dreams here," Dowie added.

Dowie also made it clear that Darren Powell's one-month loan to West Ham will not be extended, despite the fact that Hammers boss Alan Pardew has said he would be interested in signing the centre-back.

"If he says he is interested in Darren Powell, he hasn't spoken to me about signing him," said Dowie. "He has gone for a month of football as far as I am concerned and that is the end of the deal. There isn't a two-month deal. He is there for a month. That is it."

England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson was in the crowd for last Sunday's defeat at home to Charlton. Dowie believes Andy Johnson's performance will have boosted his international credentials, despite his second-half penalty miss.

"His performance will have done nothing but credit," said Dowie. "He deserved a goal in the game but he didn't get it. Was he the best forward on the pitch? Yes he was."

Dowie also felt Eriksson will have been impressed by Wayne Routledge.

"I heard people waxing lyrical about Stuart Downing - who is an excellent player for them (Middlesbrough) - but some of Wayne's ability was a match for that. And that is not a criticism of Stuart Downing, because he is a very good player. I'm saying that Wayne did very well."

Palace will play Sunderland in the third round of the FA Cup. The tie will be played on the weekend January 8/9 2005.

It will be Palace's first trip to the Stadium of Light since they booked their place in the play-off final there in May. Dowie has made it clear he will field his strongest team possible in the FA Cup.

Dowie and Spurs boss Martin Jol settled their recent spat over the phone.

"I've spoken to Martin - it's not a problem. It seems he was misquoted badly." Jol recently said he would have a beer with Dowie, who will take the Dutchman up on his offer.

"I'll even buy him one," said the Eagles boss.
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