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Clough denies `bung' claims

FOOTBALL : Not for the first time, Brian Clough found himself yesterday denying allegations that he was implicated in any "bung" controversy. The transfer of Alf Inge Haland from the Norwegian club, Bryne, to Nottingham Forest is one of several b eing investigated by the Premier League commission of inquiry, but the former Forest manager has denied meeting Rune Hauge, the Norwegian agent at the centre of the illegal payments scandal.

It is alleged that £200,000 of the £350,000 transfer fee was passed to Hauge, but Clough said: "I've never met the agent. The only time I spoke to him on the telephone he was chuntering on about a problem with a work permit."

The deal was set up in October, 1992, while Clough was still in charge at the City Ground, but was only completed 12 months ago because of work permit problems - by which time Clough had retired.

Clough has already met with the three-man inquiry team to discuss allegations that he received a £50,000 "bung" when Teddy Sheringham joined Tottenham for £2.1m.

The Inland Revenue is not the only tax authority making inquiries into transfers. The Norwegians are looking at those involving Stig Inge Bjornebye (to Liverpool), Roger Nilsen (to Sheffield United) and Gunnar Halle (to Oldham).

England's love affair with the World Cup appears to be over as far as Ilie Dumitrescu is concerned, the Romanian putting in a transfer request which was promptly accepted by Gerry Francis, the Spurs manager. "Dumi", signed immediately after the American finals for £2.6m by Francis's predecessor, Ossie Ardiles, has never settled in the English game.

"If Ilie does go, I may have some money to strengthen the team in other areas [other than attack]. It was unfortunate for Ilie that I was left an imbalanced squad with some tremendous forwards."

Brian Little, the new Aston Villa manager, is close to getting just what he wants for Christmas: an injection of youth into his ageing side.

Having exchanged Guy Whittingham for Sheffield Wednesday's Ian Taylor, plus a £250,000 cash adjustment in the Yorkshire club's favour, he has homed in on Derby's Tommy Johnson, 23, and Gary Charles, 24, armed with a £3m cheque. In such hard times at the Baseball Ground, the manager, Roy McFarland, reluctantly confirmed that the interest had passed "the polite inquiry stage".

Luton, however, have flatly refused a £1m bid for their young striker, John Hartson, from Southampton, who may switch their attention to Bristol Rovers' Marcus Stewart.

Goodwill shown yesterday towards Leyton Orient, the impoverished Second Division club, may not last much longer than the festive season.

The Essex businessman, Phillip Wallace, who is also chairman of the Diadora League side, Borehamwood, warned that his assistance could only be short term because of the state of the club's finances.