Call for earlier start to season

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The Independent Online
The FA Carling Premiership and Nationwide Football League want the 1997-98 season to start early to ease the impact that the heavy international commitments in the build-up to the World Cup finals in France will have on domestic fixtures.

The Football League is hoping to advance the launch of its programme a week to 9 August, while it is understood the Premiership would welcome the start of its season being moved forward a fortnight to 2 August.

The change would help the preparations of England's coach, Glenn Hoddle. Whether or not Paul Gascoigne will be involved in those come 1998 remains to be seen, but Hoddle is likely to have the final say on whether the troubled Rangers midfielder will even be part of the squad for the next qualifier, in Georgia on 9 November.

Hoddle will meet the Football Association chairman, Keith Wiseman, today to discuss Gascoigne's England future and the public response to allegations that he had beaten his wife, Sheryl. Last night, in a poll conducted by Talk Radio, 76 per cent of callers were against Hoddle selecting Gascoigne.

Everton yesterday completed the signing of another England squad member, Nick Barmby, for a club record pounds 5.75m.

Middlesbrough's manager, Bryan Robson, is likely to spend Barmby's transfer fee on bolstering his defence. According to reports last night, he has two of Fabrizio Ravanelli's compatriots in mind, Parma's Luigi Apolloni and Lorenzo Menotti.

Tottenham's manager, Gerry Francis, has turned his attention to the Belgian international Enzo Scifo, who Spurs wanted to sign last year. Monaco rebuffed Francis when he pursued the defender Emmanuel Petit, but they are prepared to release the midfielder Scifo.