Football: Babb's transfer unresolved

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The Independent Online
PHIL BABB's anticipated move to Liverpool for pounds 3.7m yesterday remained shrouded in secrecy and Phil Neal, the Coventry manager, refused to discuss the subject after the Sky Blues suffered their third consecutive defeat of the new season, losing by a goal to Aston Villa at Highfield Road on Monday. 'That story is getting to be like Emmerdale Farm,' he said.

Babb, the Republic of Ireland centre-back, said: 'As far as I'm concerned it is still all speculation. I read the papers like everybody else but I don't know where I'm supposed to be going. If this was my last match for Coventry, I just don't know, but the lads showed they have the spirit, despite the result, to get out of trouble.'

The club have re-signed Gary Gillespie on trial after the veteran former Scotland centre-half's release by Celtic, but it is more likely that the midfielder, David Rennie, would switch to Babb's position if he were to move.

However, the Coventry chairman, Brian Richardson, is more likely to look for a younger replacement, and may also be awaiting a counter-offer to top Liverpool's bid, possibly from Blackburn. Tottenham, who once led the bidding, have now dropped out.

On the form shown so far this term, Neal can hardly afford to lose a quality player like Babb without adequate replacement, but he said he was willing to battle on without his striker, Mick Quinn, who was sent off in the 4-0 defeat at Blackburn on Saturday and dropped for the Villa match.

'We will be forced to be without him for up to three games through suspension, so we might as well get used to it straight away,' Neal said.

The much-travelled Quinn, who was sent off for abusive and foul language, was unhappy over being left out for the derby match and was yesterday contemplating demanding a transfer from Highfield Road. 'There was no argument with the manager. We had a chat about it. I was very disappointed at being dropped. I didn't think I should have been,' the former Wigan, Stockport, Oldham and Portsmouth player said.

'I felt a club fine would have been sufficient for the circumstances of the sending off. My transfer request will be in writing by the end of the week.'

Coventry looked unlikely to score against Villa, who had to produce no more than diligent dedication to earn the points, and it was Rennie who made the ghastly error which led to Dwight Yorke's well-taken third-minute winner. Neal said: 'It was a basic mistake and David has admitted as much down in the dressing room.'

Rennie was jeered by a section of Coventry supporters until substituted in the second half by John Williams. 'It wasn't the best of nights for David and his error cost the lads the game,' Neal added.

Ron Atkinson, the Villa manager, was clearly less than overwhelmed by his team's performance but said: 'The main satisfaction was in winning after three draws. We are still unbeaten and it is the best start to a season since I've been at the club. Coventry worked very hard against us, but what I call our combat players did very well.'

Over on Merseyside, Robbie Fowler is in line to become Liverpool's latest millionaire after his five-minute hat-trick against Arsenal on Sunday. The 19-year-old has been offered a pounds 1m contract over the next four years. The England Under-21 player will follow Rob Jones and Jamie Redknapp on long-term, big-money deals as Liverpool try to hold on to their talented crop of youngsters.

Fowler has blossomed in the last 11 months and his wages have ballooned from the pounds 500 a week he was getting less than a year ago. 'I see my future at Liverpool,' he said. 'I enjoy the place. Every game you play with people like Ian Rush and John Barnes helps you become a better player.

'This time last year I could not have had a clue about what was going to happen to me. But I think it's too soon to talk about the full England team. I would love to be involved but I think it is a long way off, particularly when there are so many good strikers about.'