Football: Bishop chased by eager Saints

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The Independent Online
SOUTHAMPTON, who are already sensing a relegation struggle after three successive defeats, have targeted the West Ham pair, Tim Breacker and Ian Bishop, and are poised to complete a pounds 1m double transfer.

The players are both out of contract after refusing new terms with the Hammers and have spoken to the Saints manager, Ian Branfoot. Billy Bonds, his Upton Park counterpart, does not want to see the players leave but is powerless to stop them. 'I am not in the position to match Southampton's offer,' Bonds said yesterday. 'I made Tim another offer when he came back from Southampton but he has refused that.'

The East End club, promoted to the Premier League last season, do not have the financial resoures to compete on an equal basis with the elite. The bond scheme has put a severe drain on funds and earlier this summer Kevin Keen found he would be a wealthier player with Wolves in the First Division. Colin Foster, the central defender, is another to refuse new terms.

Breacker was Bonds' first signing when he moved from Luton for pounds 600,000 three years ago. Bishop, who has been injured since the start of the season arrived, came from Manchester City along with Trevor Morley. Branfoot is also negotiating with Southampton's former winger Danny Wallace for a pay-as-you-play transfer from Manchester United.

Paul Ince is likely to be fit for United's game at Southampton on Saturday but Roy Keane is doubtful with a hamstring injury - another reminder of the stress and strain of a congested fixture list that threatens their European Cup ambitions. On that front there is a bonus for Alex Ferguson now that Mark Hughes is recognised as an 'assimilated' player, freeing United to field an extra 'foreigner'.

Keane's injury did not prevent him playing at Aston Villa on Monday when Ince collided with Nigel Spink in the move leading to Lee Sharpe's first goal. X-rays yesterday revealed severe bruising to Ince's back and thigh and not a fractured shoulder as was feared.

Likely to return at the Dell for his first game of the season is Eric Cantona, who proved his fitness on World Cup duty for France at the weekend.

Ipswich Town could be without both their pre-season signings, Ian Marshall and Paul Mason, for the East Anglian derby at Norwich. Marshall, who has scored in each of his side's three wins this season, has a foot injury, while Mason has a groin strain.

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