Blackburn stage coup with Witschge loan

Appropriately for a season dominated by the names Cantona and Klinsmann, the most significant deals before yesterday's transfer deadline involved foreign players.

Blackburn, the Premiership leaders, pulled off a late coup by taking Richard Witschge, the lavishly gifted Netherlands international, on loan from Bordeaux. A close friend of Bryan Roy, the 25-year-old Witschge is an attacking midfielder who operates wide on the left. As such he will provide vital cover for the injured Jason Wilcox during the run-in.

Witschge began with Ajax, joining Barcelona for £3m in 1991. At the Nou Camp he had a fractious relationship with Johan Cruyff, while a season and a half in France brought another personality clash with Bordeaux's Portuguese coach, Toni. Rob Fleur, football writer with the Dutch newspaper Het Parool, said: "Richard is a millionaire, but now he's playing for his career."

The First Division's top club, Middlesbrough, completed the day's only seven-figure transaction. Bryan Robson's two-month pursuit of Jan ge Fjrtoft, the Norwegian World Cup striker, ended when he paid £1.3m for a player he described as "a proven scorer". Fjrtoft, 25 goals this season, misses Sunday's visit of Port Vale due to international commitments.

Middlesbrough also bought Phil Whelan, the Ipswich centre-back, for £300,000. Meanwhile, Swindon splashed £340,000 of the Fjrtoft fee on Jason Drysdale, the defender who cost Newcastle £425,000 from Watford last summer but failed to break into Kevin Keegan's side.

Aston Villa's Brian Little was among the busier managers, though a £3m deal for Leicester's Mark Draper fell through when his former club, Leicester, refused to part. The sale of Ray Houghton and Chris Boden to Crystal Palace and Derby respectively raised £450,000 for Villa's coffers, two-thirds of it coming from the Irish midfielder's departure.

Houghton, 33, is eligible for a prompt return to Villa Park in the FA Cup semi-final against Manchester United a fortnight on Sunday, having been a non-playing substitute in both Villa's ties this season. Palace were unsuccessful, however, in their bid to re-sign Eddie McGoldrick from Arsenal for £400,000. Another stillborn deal was Everton's £2.3m offer for Brian Deane, £600,000 short of Leeds' valuation.

In fact, only £3.1m changed hands yesterday, most managers preferring to borrow with a view to buying. Dean Richards - Bradford City's 20-year- old centre-back rather than England's rugby No 8 - could raise £1m-plus if Wolves like what they see. Dieter Eckstein, the Schalke 04 striker and Jrgen Klinsmann confidant, moved to West Ham on a similar basis.

Even that compulsive spender, Birmingham's Barry Fry, restricted himself to three temporary recruits. One, the 40-year-old goalkeeper Barry Siddall, is now on his 18th club.

By the time the 5pm deadline passed, the total spent by Premiership and Endsleigh League clubs since the end of last season had reached £135m, an increase of 50 per cent on the previous year. August, when £32m was spent, was the busiest month, followed by January with £25m.

In terms of value for money - or practically any other criterion - Klinsmann's £2m transfer from Monaco to Spurs was arguably the best deal. Among British players, the £1.25m Leicester paid Notts County for Draper now looks a prime contender for the shrewdest deal, with Mark McGhee likely to treble Little's outlay this summer.

Outside the Premiership, Peter Thorne's progress since a £200,000 switch from Blackburn to Swindon will soften the blow of Fjrtoft 's exit, making him as good a buy as any in the past 12 months.

DEADLINE-DAY TRANSFERS: Jan ge Fjrtoft (Swindon to Middlesbrough) £1.3m; Brett Angell (Everton to Sunderland) £600,000; Jason Drysdale (Newcastle to Swindon) £340,000; Phil Whelan (Ipswich to Middlesbrough) £300,000; Ray Houghton (A Villa to C Palace) £300,000; Chris Swailes (Doncaster to Ipswich) £225,000; John Taylor (Bradford to Luton) £200,000; Chris Boden (A Villa to Derby) £150,000; Ian Bogie (Leyton Orient to Port Vale) £50,000; Mark Lloyd-Williams (Bangor City to Stockport) £10,000; Dieter Eckstein (Schalke 04 to West Ham) free; Mickey Gynn (Stoke to Mansfield) free; Graham Shaw (Stoke to Rochdale) free; Kerry Dixon (Luton to Millwall) free; Peter Davenport (St Johnstone to Stockport) free; Mike Cheetham (Chesterfield to Colchester) free; Barry Siddall (Carlisle to Birmingham) free; Andy Collett (Middlesbrough to Bristol Rovers) undisclosed; Ashley Fickling (Sheffield Utd to Grimsby) undisclosed; Des Hazel (Rotherham to Chester) undisclosed; Ian Ironside (Stockport to Scarborough) undisclosed; Danny O'Shea (Cambridge to Northampton) undisclosed; Jim Reeve (Bournemouth to Hereford) undisclosed; David Roche (Doncaster to Southend) undisclosed; David Thompson (Blackpool to Cambridge) undisclosed; Paul Milsom (Bristol City to Cardiff) undisclosed; Steve Brown (Colchester to Gillingham) exchange; Robbie Reinelt (Gillingham to Colchester) exchange.

LOANS: Tony Battersby (Sheffield Utd to Southend Utd); Alec Chamberlain (Sunderland to Liverpool); John Dreyer (Stoke to Bolton); Mark Flatts (Arsenal to Bristol City); Dale Gordon (West Ham to Peterborough); Ian Hendon (Leyton Orient to Birmingham); Alex Inglethorpe (Watford to Barnet); Nigel Jemson (Notts Co to Coventry); Gary Lund (Notts Co to Hull); Martyn Margetson (Manchester City to Luton); Olisa Morah (Cambridge to Torquay); Antti Niemi (HJK Helsinki to Birmingham); Nathan Peel (Burnley to Rotherham); Dean Richards (Bradford to Wolves); Paul Shaw (Arsenal to Burnley); Richard Walker (Notts Co to Mansfield); Simon Webster (West Ham to Oldham); Richard Witschge (Bordeaux to Blackburn Rovers).

THE SEASON'S BIG DEALS

FEE PLAYER FROM TO

£7m Andy Cole Newcastle Man Utd

£5m Chris Sutton Norwich Blackburn

£4m Duncan Ferguson Rangers Everton

£3.6m Phil Babb Coventry Liverpool

£3.5m John Scales Wimbledon Liverpool

£3.4m Anthony Yeboah Eintracht Frankfurt Leeds

£3m Daniel Amokachi Bruges Everton

£2.9m Gheorghe Popescu PSV Eindhoven Tottenham

£2.8m Carlton Palmer Sheff Wed Leeds

£2.65m Philippe Albert Anderlecht Newcastle

£2.6m Ilie Dumitrescu Steaua Bucharest Tottenham

£2.5m John Hartson Luton Arsenal

£2.5m Bryan Roy Foggia Nottm Forest

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