Football: League wins back place in Europe

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The Independent Online
The Football League have won back the Uefa Cup place for the winners of the Coca-Cola Cup. The U-turn by Uefa, European football's governing body, means that this year's winners will be eligible to play in Europe next season after all.

The agreement covers the next three years, after which the situation will be reassessed by an arbitration panel if the Premier League has still not reduced the number of clubs in the Premiership from 20 to 18.

Sheffield Wednesday have finally secured the services of Everton's Andy Hinchcliffe, for a fee of pounds 3m. The England international defender is likely to play against Wimbledon today.

Everton, who visit West Ham, will also be without Gary Speed, who will be disciplined after he refused to travel with the team to London on Thursday night. Speed stayed at home because he believed he would be dropped and stripped of the captaincy by the manager, Howard Kendall, who is expected to fine him the maximum two weeks' wages, around pounds 20,000.

"I would have thought that Gary hasn't got many mates down here today," Kendall said.

Leicester City have signed the Greek midfielder, Theo Zagorakis, from PAOK Salonika in a deal worth a total of pounds 2m. A transfer fee of pounds 800,000 plus instalments has been agreed.

The West Ham midfielder, Steve Lomas has been banned for a further match and given a pounds 500 fine after being found guilty of misconduct by the FA following his sending-off at Blackburn in December.

Lomas has already served a suspension for laying hands on the referee, Gerald Ashby, when the official turned down a penalty appeal.

The Middlesbrough defender, Gianluca Festa, has been banned for two matches after being sent off for a professional foul against Ipswich two weeks ago.

The owners of the League's bottom side, Doncaster Rovers, have agreed to sell the club, which is currently owned by an offshore company, to an unnamed consortium.

The Chelsea players called a dressing-room clear-the-air meeting yesterday in a bid to stop their season going off the rails. Ruud Gullit and his management team were kept outside as the dressing-room debate heated up, under the direction of the club captain, Dennis Wise.

"It was an open day for all of us and we all threw our hat into the ring, to sort a few things out," Mark Hughes said.

Bolton hope to sign two Benfica players. Wanderers' manager, Colin Todd, plans to bring in the Dutch winger, Gaston Taument, and Swedish striker, Martin Pringle.

Diego Maradona is ready to return to struggling Napoli as a player, according to his agent. "Diego's ready to come back because he wants to give the club a hand." Guillermo Coppola said. "He's training in Argentina and he's 110 per cent fit. He's dying to play again."

- Alan Nixon