Flitcroft sale angers City fans

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Staff and officials at Manchester City yesterday felt the backlash from angry supporters after one of their prized assets, Garry Flitcroft, was sold to Blackburn Rovers for pounds 3.2m.

Fans besieged the Maine Road switchboard to register their dissent over the transfer of the 23-year-old midfielder, who captained City during Keith Curle's recent absence. Flitcroft pronounced himself "shocked", but the City manager, Alan Ball, insisted the deal was sanctioned on footballing criteria rather than to ease their financial position.

"We have a glut of midfield players at the club," Ball said yesterday. "Although Garry has done brilliantly, it's a decision we had to take. There were issues we had to take into account, such as the emergence of young Michael Brown, who has proved his class."

Ball's chairman, Francis Lee, maintained Blackburn had instigated the move. Flitcroft, involved with City from the age of 12, said: "The timing was the biggest shock because of where City are in the League."

Blackburn are prepared to sell the former West Ham midfield player Matty Holmes to Portsmouth for pounds 600,000.

Another of the Premiership relegation candidates, Southampton, declared yesterday that they will not try to offload Matthew Le Tissier before next Thursday's deadline to finance team strengthening. Dave Merrington, the Southampton manager, said: "Selling Matt isn't the answer. If he wanted to leave, then I couldn't blame him, but I think he'll want to stay as long as we're in the Premiership."

While Le Tissier remains an international outsider, Lee Bowyer, the 19- year-old Charlton midfielder, the Ipswich goalkeeper Richard Wright and the Tranmere striker Ian Moore, both 18, have been invited to join the England squad's training for next Wednesday's visit of Bulgaria. Bowyer's chance to impress Terry Venables comes a year after he tested positive for cannabis in a random drugs test.

Robert Chase's 10-year reign as the Norwich City chairman may be soon be over. Chase, the object of supporters' wrath after the departures of managers Mike Walker and Martin O'Neill and a succession of outgoing transfers, said that he had received an "acceptable offer" that was "in the best interests of the club" for his 34 per cent shareholding. Ian Crook could be the next player to leave Carrow Road, with Aberdeen in pursuit of the midfielder.

Birmingham City last night agreed to pay pounds 500,000 for the Walsall midfielder, Martin O'Connor, a pounds 40,000 signing from Crystal Palace in 1994. Richard Forsyth is likely to join West Bromwich Albion to make way for O'Connor.

Tony Yeboah, who will become the first Ghanaian to play at Wembley in Sunday's Coca-Cola Cup final, plans to retire at the end of his contract with Leeds United in 1998. The 29-year-old striker, who cost Leeds pounds 3.4m from Eintracht Frankfurt and signed a three-year deal last summer, said: "This will be my last one. After that I'm going back to Ghana to coach young players. There's only one person who can change my mind, and that's my wife. But she's already decided we're going home, and nothing's going to change that."

Romania's coach, Anghel Iordanescu, has withdrawn his resignation and will lead his country into the European Championship finals after being promised an investigation into his allegations of match-rigging.

Bulgaria have chosen a virtually full-strength squad for next Wednesday's Wembley friendly against England. The injured defender Tsanko Tsvetanov, who played in the European Championship qualifying campaign, was the only key player missing from the 18-strong party named yesterday. It included two players familiar from the Endsleigh League First Division, Reading's goalkeeper Borislav Mihailov and Luton's Boncho Genchev.

Maggie Atkinson, the wife of the Coventry City manager Ron Atkinson, was bound and gagged for 13 hours after burglars broke into their Worcestershire home. Mrs Atkinson, whose husband was away on Wednesday night working as a summariser for ITV, was said yesterday to be "extremely distressed" after being handcuffed to a bannister and having jewellery and cash stolen.

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