Everton suffered a second setback in 72 hours last night when Chris Armstrong, the Crystal Palace striker, elected to join Tottenham Hotspur for pounds 4.5m rather than move to Goodison Park.
Joe Royle, having lost out so publicly to Liverpool on the pounds 8.5m Stan Collymore, put a brave face on his latest disappointment: "I always believe things happen for a reason. Perhaps something better is around the corner. The fact is that the lad didn't want to leave London. "It would be unfair to suggest that the top players don't want to come to Everton. There are plenty who would love to join us."
His counterpart at Spurs, Gerry Francis, clearly believes Armstrong can replace Jurgen Klinsmann, despite his record on and off the pitch last season. The former Wrexham and Millwall player managed a miserly eight Premiership goals, a tally beefed up by 10 in cup football, and was briefly left out of the Palace's relegation struggle after random drug tests revealed cannabis use.
A dearth of goals leaves Armstrong, 24 yesterday, in exalted company. Dennis Bergkamp, who is expected to join Arsenal from Internazionale for pounds 7.5m today, scored only 11 times in 52 Serie A matches. However, his more prolific form for the Netherlands - 23 goals in 39 appearances - means that Bruce Rioch's first recruit is certain to be regarded as a Klinsmann-style coup by the faithful.
Negotiations have yet to be concluded, with two Inter officials flying in from Milan today. But neither the fee nor personal terms - a reputed pounds 25,000 a week - appear to daunt Rioch. Tony Adams, who played against the former Ajax forward in England's defeat at Rotterdam in 1993, welcomed his impending arrival. "We want as many good players as possible at Highbury," the Arsenal captain said, "and he's one of the best."
Mike Walker, who began the Everton spree Royle is anxious to continue, may come up against his previous club in the European Cup-Winners' Cup. The former Norwich manager, 49, is expected to be named manager of the Danish Cup holders FC Copenhagen, seven months after his exit from Goodison.
Meanwhile, European football will come to the League's newest venue next Sunday - police permitting - when Spurs stage their Intertoto Cup tie against the Swiss side, Lucerne, at Northampton Town's ground. Building work means that White Hart Lane is unavailable, and Spurs have arranged to play the game 70 miles away at the 8,000-capacity Sixfields Stadium.Reuse content