By Matt Farr
Championship leaders Brighton have joined the race to sign coveted Brentford midfielder Alan Judge – according to a report.
The Newcastle Chronicle claim that Brighton have joined Newcastle in the race to land the 28-year-old, and both clubs are now locked in a battle for his signature.
Judge has yet to make an appearance for Brentford this season, having suffered a broken-leg during the victory over Ipswich back in April.
But his haul of 14 goals and 12 assists from 39 appearances last season remains fresh in the memory, as he continues his comeback from injury.
The Republic of Ireland international was subject to interest from Newcastle back in the summer, only for the Magpies to pull out of the deal to allow Judge to focus on his recovery.
The Chronicle believe that Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez is still monitoring the midfielder’s condition, but could step up his interest after hearing their Championship title rivals have joined the race.
Judge is out of contract in the summer and Brentford are yet to begin negotiations over a new contract. However, talks are not likely to begin until he returns to full fitness, which presents Newcastle and Brighton with an opportunity to swoop in.
Brentford could though, be tempted into parting ways with the 28-year-old this month if they receive a reasonable fee, as they risk losing him on a free transfer if he does not leave this month.
Football Insider verdict:
He was a superstar last season, but due to his long-term injury, Brentford have already had a taste of life without Alan Judge. They’ve had to cope without him for the entire first-half of the season, and they’ve done a reasonable job. It does make the thought of losing Judge a little easier for the Championship club, particularly with his contract set to expire in the summer. He’d be a valuable first-team player at Brighton, but given the abundance of quality already in Newcastle’s squad, it is hard to see what role he would play at St. James’ Park at this stage. Though nothing is yet certain, both clubs are preparing for life in the Premier League, and Judge’s performances last season have certainly caught the eye. It remains to be seen whether he can rediscover that kind of form after such a long spell on the sidelines, not to mention in the Premier League (if they make it), but a deal looks promising. He’d be available for a fair price too, and it’s not often you can say that in today’s market.
In other Newcastle news, here is how Newcastle are expected to line-up against Birmingham on Saturday.