Derby's warning for Villa

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Derby County have warned Aston Villa that they will not be able to pick off Tommy Johnson and Gary Charles at bargain prices because of the First Division club's financial problems, writes Phil Shaw.

Villa's manager, Brian Little, made a pre-Christmas offer of £1.5m for Johnson, the striker signed from Notts County for £1.4m, as well as giving Derby the chance to recoup their £750,000 outlay on Charles, the former Nottingham Forest and England right-back. But Derby's owner and chairman, Lionel Pickering, wants at least £3m for the pair.

Pickering, mindful of supporters' protests over Paul Kitson's £2.4m move from the Baseball Ground to Newcastle, said: "It's my money that bought these players and I will not have anyone else selling them. If anyone got Johnson for less than £2m they would be pinching him from us. Charles is a classy attacking full-back and would probably command £1.5m. But as a package we could come down a bit."

Meanwhile, Liverpool are considering a deal which could give Mark Prudhoe, Stoke City's 31-year-old third-choice goalkeeper, the opportunity to push for David James's first-team place at Anfield.

Prudhoe, formerly with Darlington, has created a strong impression on loan with Liverpool, making the substitutes' bench during the absence of the injured Dane, Michael Stensgaard. Lou Macari, the Stoke manager, has now told his opposite number, Roy Eva

n s, that he is available for a price believed to be in the region of £150,000.

"We have talked about a permanent transfer," Macari said. "It would be a great move for Mark and would benefit both clubs."