Football: Carbone's agent hits back over Wednesday accusations

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BENITO CARBONE'S agent has hit back at the Sheffield Wednesday chairman, Dave Richards, in response to claims that the Italian and his compatriot Paolo Di Canio had "killed" the Hillsborough club.

Richards, whose club are at the bottom of the Premiership, has criticised Carbone, who has been involved in a series of disputes with the club, and the controversial Di Canio, who left Wednesday to join West Ham last season, claiming the pair "killed us and are killing the game". This outburst from the Premier League chairman comes as a debate on limiting the number of foreign players in the domestic game is gathering force.

However, Giovanni Branchini has warned the club not to make Carbone a scapegoat for the current plight. "Reading Mr Richards' comments has been a very depressing and sad experience for Mr Carbone and myself," Branchini, the player's agent, said. "I respect him as one of the finest people I ever met in football but this clumsy attempt to deflect the blame is very unfair to Benito.

"It is a vicious attempt to make him the scapegoat of a situation where a lot of people should look at themselves in the mirror. The rules are the same for everybody, English and foreigners, as well as for the clubs who remember the inequity of the Bosman ruling, only when they lose one, not get one or two for free. We don't understand why we should be the villains when other very respected English players can follow the same path free of any criticism."

Harry Redknapp is giving the Cameroon World Cup player Michel Pensee Billong the chance to solve West Ham's problem right-back position.

Billong is due to play for the Hammers in a reserve game this week and could clinch a move as Redknapp, the Upton Park club's manager, looks to buy to build on his team's fine start to the season. Billong, who comes highly recommended by his compatriot Marc-Vivien Foe, is currently with the French side St Etienne and has an EU passport. He would cost around pounds 700,000.

Ipswich Town yesterday completed the signing of the defender Gary Croft from Blackburn Rovers for a fee of around pounds 800,000.

The transfer is a blow to Croft's former club Grimsby, who stood to receive a pounds 300,000 payment had Croft played 10 more first-team games for Rovers.

Kilmarnock have captured the signing of the former French international Christophe Cocard under the Bosman ruling. The 31-year-old striker, who has agreed a three-year deal with the Rugby Park club, arrives under freedom of contract from Lyon, the club he joined in 1996.