Aldridge urged to keep playing

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The Independent Online
John Aldridge, the ever prolific 36-year-old Tranmere Rovers striker, has been handed the incentive to play on for another year by Jack Charlton, the Republic of Ireland manager, and possibly finish his career in the Premiership.

Charlton has told the former Liverpool player that he is crucial to the Republic's European Championship plans after his performance against Portugal at Landsdowne Road last week.

"The game gave me a big lift in confidence," Aldridge said. "Jack took me to one side afterwards and told me I'm a key part of his plans until after the European Championships, so that will keep me going for next season. My fitness is no problem."

Aldridge, whose hopes of seeing his club side win the Endlseigh Insurance League First Division title were ended with the 5-1 defeat at West Bromwich on Sunday, has topped 20 League goals for the fourth successive season.

"We've blown three or four great chances to get ourselves in a position to win automatic promotion. Now we've got to get everyone back together. We've got to restore morale and confidence for the play-offs if and when we get there."

Tommy Taylor, the former West Ham defender, has been appointed manager of Cambridge United, whose relegation to the Third Division was confirmed on Tuesday. Taylor, who has been given a contract up until the end of next year, has been in temporary charge at the Abbey Stadium for the last five matches following the dismissal of Gary Johnson.

During that time Cambridge beat the promotion favourites, Birmingham City, and drew with Huddersfield Town, but Bournemouth's 3-0 win over Shrewsbury sealed their fate.

Taylor, who joined the club as youth team manager at the start of the 1993/94 season, will appoint an assistant and new youth coach shortly. The 44-year-old is already looking forward to next season, declaring: "We will bounce straight back."

Meanwhile, Steve Thompson has been named as manager of First Division Southend United. He was chosen ahead of five other candidates, including the club's midfield player Ronnie Whelan, once of Liverpool.

Thompson took over as caretaker when Peter Taylor was sacked in mid-February. Now the 39-year-old, who joined Southend as director of football earlier in the season, has been handed the manager's job on a permanent basis.

Under Thompson, Southend have climbed out of the bottom four and lost only twice in their last 11 games to ensure their survival in the First Division.

Confirming Thompson's appointment, the chairman, Vic Jobson, said: "Steve has done a tremendous job, producing the goods in very difficult circumstances. We have offered him a very good contract with good earning capacity and all geared towards success. Our future looks in very safe hands."

Jobson said Whelan, the former Republic of Ireland international, had been a hot contender for the job. "It was a very tough decision because he and Steve both had good qualifications for the job," he said.

"I am hoping that Whelan will take up a coaching position. In the meantime I will be offering him another year on his playing contract to take it up to three years because I feel his influence has been priceless. You only have to look at how we performed when he was out with a groin injury to appreciate how important he has been to us."