Football: Everton move in on Stubbs

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The Everton manager, Howard Kendall, has made an official move to sign Celtic's unsettled centre-back Alan Stubbs.

Kendall has asked the Scottish champions how much they want for Stubbs and been quoted a pounds 3.5m fee. Kendall knows that Stubbs is desperate to join his boyhood team and the club is trying to sell Slaven Bilic, Craig Short or Nick Barmby to fund the deal.

Everton are favourites to sign Stubbs despite only avoiding relegation on goal difference ahead of his old club, Bolton. Stubbs is an Everton supporter, as is all his family. He still has a house in Liverpool and it would be the ideal move.

For the past few months Stubbs has made Celtic aware he wants to leave and he stayed on for their championship triumph, but now wants to go. The fact that Everton have come in after several reports proved unfounded in the past will mean he could fulfil his childhood dream of playing for them.

Celtic are holding out for a cash deal and as they have no manager they can not consider swap deals for the defender. However, Stubbs will be hoping that Kendall can raise the funds in the next few weeks as he tries to buy a new look to his team.

Kendall is still actively chasing Bolton's Alan Thompson, although he has had a bid rejected, and Derby County's Neil Carsley.

Everton have been censured by the Football Association and ordered to pay the costs of the hearing into a pitch invasion during one of their games last season. A disgruntled supporter ran on to the pitch during Everton's 4-1 home defeat against Aston Villa on 24 March, on the same day as similar trouble at Barnsley's match with Liverpool at Oakwell.

Everton were found to be in breach of FA rule 24 which relates to public order inside grounds and the safety management system inside Goodison Park was judged to have failed to meet the necessary criteria. The FA committee took into account the fact that the supporter to blame has since been banned from the stadium.

The Aston Villa goalkeeper, Mark Bosnich, will be put up for sale before the start of next season unless he agrees a new long-term contract, the Villa manager, John Gregory, said yesterday. The 26-year-old Australian international still has a year left on his current agreement with the English Premiership club, but Gregory is anxious to guard against Villa losing out again under the Bosman ruling as they have just done with Steve Staunton.

The Republic of Ireland captain will walk out as a free agent next month after rejecting Villa's pounds 1m a year offer to renew his contract. "I want Bosnich to sign a new four- or five-year contract because by the time he's 30 I expect him to be the best goalkeeper in the world." said Gregory.

John Gregory has been given a timely boost by the club's highly-rated central defender Riccardo Scimeca. The former England Under-21 international captain has hinted he is keen to sign a new contract at Villa Park providing Gregory comes up with the right sort of deal.

The Challenge Cup, the tournament open to clubs in the Scottish First, Second and Third Divisions, has been axed. It is the first indication of the growing financial worries following the breakaway from the Scottish League yesterday of the 10 major clubs to form their own division.

The Challenge Cup, first played in 1991, has been without a sponsor since B&Q ended its association but in the past two seasons has been backed financially by the Scottish League itself. But in the changed climate the league will now use that money in another direction.

Falkirk are the final winners of the cup and the Stranraer manager Campbell Money, who steered his side to victory in 1997, said: "It is a disappointment for all the clubs that we do not have a sponsor and that the competition is finishing."

The family of Wilf Mannion are keeping a vigil at Middlesbrough General Hospital where the former Middlesbrough and England player is being treated for suspected pneumonia. A hospital spokesman said yesterday: "Mr Mannion has had a comfortable night and is stable."

Mannion, who celebrated his 80th birthday earlier this month, was a post- war legend and played in the Great Britain side that beat the rest of Europe 6-1 at Hampden Park in 1947.

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