Derby snap up Powell

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The Independent Online
Derby County, the First Division leaders, strengthened their squad yesterday by signing Chris Powell, the Southend left-back, from under the noses of Birmingham City for pounds 800,000.

Barry Fry, the Birmingham and former Southend manager, claimed Powell was bound for St Andrew's until the Essex club asked for Steve Claridge in exchange. Fry was unwilling to lose his top scorer, and described Southend's subsequent refusal to grant him permission to talk to Powell as "a kick in the whatsits".

Derby's former Birmingham manager, Jim Smith, promptly wrapped up a deal for Powell, who had been poised to join Manchester City last week before a disagreement over the method of payment. Shane Nicholson, whose place Powell takes at the Baseball Ground, later discussed terms with West Bromwich Albion after the clubs agreed a pounds 150,000 fee.

Fry also failed in a pounds 1m bid for Marcus Stewart, the 18-goal Bristol Rovers striker. Rovers' vice-chairman, Geoff Dunford, said Fry was "living in fantasy land" if he hoped to land Stewart for under pounds 2m. The Birmingham manager retorted that Dunford was himself in "cloud cuckoo land", and observed pointedly that Stewart would be out of contract in the summer.

On their way out of West Brom yesterday was Mike Phelan, the former Manchester United and England player, who has rejoined Norwich, where he will assist with coaching, and the striker James McCue, who signed for Partick Thistle.

Blackburn have taken the unusual step of issuing a statement criticising "inaccurate and unfounded" media reports which suggested that David Batty had walked out on the champions and was being forced to train with the junior players. Robert Coar, Blackburn's chairman, said that Batty, a transfer target for Newcastle, trained normally with the first-team squad yesterday.

The Football Association confirmed yesterday that its disciplinary committee would study video evidence of last week's Premiership match between West Ham and Manchester United before deciding whether to ask the referee, Barnsley's Stephen Lodge, to reconsider his dismissal of United's Nicky Butt.

Representatives of Uefa, European football's governing body, will meet officials of the European Commission in Brussels tomorrow to discuss the implications of the Jean-Marc Bosman case. The European Court of Justice ruled last month that Uefa's transfer-fee rules and player-nationality restrictions violated European Union law regarding the free movement of workers.

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