Football: Blackburn and Derby offers fall short

BLACKBURN ROVERS' efforts to take their close-season spending past the pounds 7m mark were frustrated yesterday by Notts County, who rejected a pounds 2.5m bid from Kenny Dalglish's club for their 24-year-old central defender, Craig Short.

Derby County, with a similar bid, also failed to prise Short away from Meadow Lane. Both clubs were willing to break the British transfer record for a defender - set when Gary Pallister moved from Middlesbrough to Manchester United for pounds 2.3m.

'He's not for sale,' Derek Pavis, the County chairman, said. 'Craig is ambitious and wants to play in the Premier League, but he has two years of his contract still to run and will see it through.'

Chelsea acquired a little-and- large strike force yesterday when they completed the pounds 300,000 signing of the 6ft 2in Mick Harford from Luton Town, and purchased the 5ft 7in Scottish Under-21 international, John Spencer, from Rangers for pounds 450,000. Spencer, 22, has been at Ibrox for six years but has made only 13 appearances. He has, however, scored seven goals in two reserve games this term.

Watford will earn a maximum of pounds 1.3m from selling the England Under-21 goalkeeper, David James, to Liverpool, a transfer tribunal decreed in Birmingham yesterday. The Anfield club will have to pay pounds 1m up front plus an additional pounds 125,000 when James, 22, has made 50 appearances. A further pounds 125,000 will be payable after 100 appearances, and another pounds 50,000 if James is capped for England.

Leicester City paid pounds 50,000 for Leeds United's Bobby Davison, the 33-year-old former Huddersfield, Halifax and Derby striker. Brian Little, the Filbert Street manager, was in need of a new goalscorer after losing David Lowe, his pounds 250,000 signing from Ipswich, for two months with a fractured cheekbone.

Maidstone United last night failed to give the Football League assurances that they will be able to fulfil their opening Third Division fixture on Saturday, at Scunthorpe United. The Kent club are tottering on the brink of closure with debts of almost pounds 700,000; most of their employees have not been paid since the end of last season. 'We have been paying grants to their players for several weeks,' Brendan Batson, of the Professional Footballers' Association, said.

Scunthorpe stand to lose pounds 6,000 plus gate receipts if Maidstone fail to turn up, which seems increasingly likely. 'It's a poor show not to know at this stage if we've got a game or not,' Donald Rowing, their chief executive, said yesterday. Maidstone's new owner, John Waugh, a Newcastle businessman, was last week refused permission to move the club to the North-east.

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