Pompey want Bent on cheap

PORTSMOUTH are poised to make a move for Ipswich striker Marcus Bent.But Fratton Park boss Harry Redknapp is not prepared to pay a fee for the 26-year-old goal ace.

PORTSMOUTH are poised to make a move for Ipswich striker Marcus Bent.

But Fratton Park boss Harry Redknapp is not prepared to pay a fee for the 26-year-old goal ace.

He said today: “Marcus is a player with bags and bags of ability. He has strength, pace and is good in the air.

“But the question mark over him is why he has been to so many clubs. That's the gamble.

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“It's about him putting it all together on a regular basis, but I wouldn't pay a fee for him - not a penny.”

Newly-promoted West Bromwich Albion are also thought to be targeting Bent, whose £17,000-a-week pay deal is way above what

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Ipswich can realistically afford. Hawthorns boss Gary Megson has shortlisted Bent after a move for Blackburn's Andy Cole brought no joy.

Bent, who cost £3million from Blackburn in November 2001, spent last season on loan at Leicester, where he scored nine Premiership goals but failed to prevent them being relegated.

The Foxes were apparently keen to keep him on board, but backed off when Town insisted they wanted a fee.

Now Ipswich, who are paying the player's wages again, have a difficult decision to make.

Do they dig their heels in, wait for a club prepared to pay a fee for Bent and continue to pay his salary in the meantime?

Or do they cut their losses and allow him to move on a free transfer, thus saving themselves the final year of his Portman Road contract?

Only last week Town boss Joe Royle confirmed they would consider offers for Bent and another striker, Pablo Counago, who is also among the best-paid players at Portman Road.

Indeed, Bent, Counago and Dutch midfielder Martijn Reuser are understood to earn £2.4m between them - almost half the £5m to which Ipswich are committed to paying their entire staff.

Only by easing the financial burden can the board release funds for Royle to bring in fresh faces for the new season.

Redknapp is a renowned wheeler and dealer in the transfer market and he is prepared to play a waiting game.

He is doing exactly the same with Lomana LuaLua, the former Colchester player who was on loan at Pompey from Newcastle last season.

The Geordies want £2m for the Congolese international, but Redknapp values the player at £1.2m and insists he will not budge.

Now Redknapp is prepared to test Town's resistance over Bent, in the hope of being able to snap up the player on a free transfer.

n Former Ipswich player and coach Tony Mowbray, appointed manager of Hibernian last month, wants to take Colchester's out-of-contract goalkeeper Simon Brown to Easter Road. Crewe and Swansea are also keen on Brown, who has so far failed to agree a new deal at Layer Road. Another ex-Town defender, Mark Venus, is set to be unveiled as Mowbray's assistant and will also sign on as a player.

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