Chelsea lay out the blue carpet to keep Hughes

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The Independent Online
Mark Hughes is being offered a VIP package by Chelsea to persuade him to sign a new two-year deal. The FA Cup finalists are pulling out all the stops to keep Hughes, whose family have returned to the Manchester area.

The offer would allow Hughes to spend much of the week up North with free transport laid on to London. Chelsea will give Hughes shuttle tickets and a chauffeur to pick him up from the airport on the days he is needed for training and games. The Welsh striker is likely to accept despite interest from Bolton and will commit himself before the final.

One striker poised to leave his club is Mike Sheron, ready to follow Lou Macari out of Stoke City and sign for Queen's Park Rangers at the end of the season for pounds 2.5m. Sheron wants to leave in the summer and QPR have reopened talks with Stoke to pair him with John Spencer.

Stewart Houston, the QPR manager, is confident of success after Macari blocked a deal before the deadline.

Sheron knows there is a lucrative deal on offer at Loftus Road with pounds 1m in signing-on fees alone. The former England Under-21 striker will be a likely replacement for Trevor Sinclair, who is ready to move in the summer.

Reading look likely to commit their management double act of Jimmy Quinn and Mick Gooding to two-year contracts after clear the air talks following a fax which apparently put them on the free transfer list. Quinn and Gooding met the chairman, John Madjeski ,to sort out the row and have agreed to the terms on offer.

The pair were shocked to find a circular had been put out about them and immediately held crisis talks with their employers. The club claimed the fax was a mistake or a hoax, but two separate official letters had been sent with their names down as being released.

Steffen Iversen, Tottenham's pounds 2.6m Norwegian striker, is the latest White Hart Lane player to go under the surgeon's knife and be ruled out for the rest of the season. Iversen was facing an operation last night to remove a cyst from the inside of his kneecap.

The Spurs manager, Gerry Francis, who had 13 senior players unavailable through injury for last Saturday's 1-1 draw at Aston Villa, admitted: "We are getting used to this sort of thing, I am afraid." Chris Armstrong, John Scales, Ramon Vega and Darren Anderton are among the top players who have had long injury lay-offs at Spurs this season.

To add to this their former England Under-21 centre back, Stuart Nethercott, is also out for the remainder of the campaign after damaging knee ligaments in a reserve game. Francis has been forced to blood youngsters such as Paul McVeigh and Neale Fenn to cover the gaps and both could be in the side for tomorrow night's rearranged Premiership game at home to Middlesbrough.

The game has had to be squeezed in before international players report for World Cup duty at the weekend, so Middlesbrough would not have to play four matches in the last week of the season. Spurs could have both Anderton and the winger Ruel Fox, recovering from a knee injury, back for the match.

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