Football: Liverpool set to challenge blocking of Friedel move

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The Independent Online
Brad Friedel was unexpectedly blocked from joining Liverpool last night when the Government turned down his work permit application.

The United States international goalkeeper was shocked to find out that his pounds 2m move to Anfield had been stopped by the Department of Environment and Education. Liverpool are ready to take the fight to the High Court.

The Department blocked the move because it ruled that Friedel fell just below the number of caps needed to get a work permit. The guidelines state a players should have "around 75 per cent of caps in the past two years." Friedel has 71.4 per cent from playing in 10 out of the last 14 competitive games.

Ironically, Friedel has played more internationals than his American rival, Kasey Keller, who is already in the country at Leicester City.

Friedel's record was good enough for the football authorities to give the move their blessing on Monday, but the Overseas Labour Office ignored their recommendation. Portsmouth have had similar problems with an Australian keeper, Zeljko Kalac.

It is the fifth time Friedel has had a work permit application rejected. Celtic, Newcastle, Sunderland and Southampton have all failed in the past. He could go to Europe where Benfica, PSV Eindhoven and Kaiserslautern are keen on him.

A Department spokesman said last night: "Friedel did not meet the criteria for football in our opinion - although the club has a right to appeal."

Liverpool put out a statement last night that read: "We find it incredible that it has taken so long for the Department to reach such an unsatisfactory conclusion. We shall take further advice on the matter once we have received written confirmation of the decision and their reasons for it."

Fulham have been blocked in their quest to field three former Premiership men for the trip to Preston today. They have spent almost pounds 2m this week on Alan Neilson from Southampton, Paul Trollope from Derby and Steve McAnespie from Bolton, but their fax to the Football League to register the trio arrived too late for them to play today.

The Coventry manager, Gordon Strachan, has put the David Burrows-Mark Pembridge exchange deal on hold. Burrows has agreed personal terms with Sheffield Wednesday - but Strachan has not yet spoken to Pembridge. Coventry hope to receive pounds 350,000 plus Pembridge in the deal, if the Welsh international agrees terms.

Oxford United have eased their financial worries by selling their midfielder Bobby Ford to Sheffield United for pounds 400,000. The Manor Ground club, whose debts are estimated at over pounds 10m, put all their players up for sale a week ago.

Chris Sutton has signed a new contract with Blackburn Rovers that will keep him at the club until the summer of 2003.

The Birmingham City defender Michael Johnson is the latest British-based player who hopes to win a call-up from Jamaica for the World Cup. He was born in Nottingham but his parents were both born in Jamaica.

- Alan Nixon