Football: Chelsea spend pounds 2.3m on Furlong

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CHELSEA, building for a European Cup-Winners' Cup challenge, yesterday broke their transfer record by paying pounds 2.3m for Paul Furlong, Watford's 25-year-old striker.

Furlong, a tall, mobile player who was also a target of West Ham, started out with non-League Enfield before joining Coventry for pounds 130,000 in July 1991; the Sky Blues accepted pounds 250,000 from Watford a year later. Yesterday's fee for Furlong eclipses the pounds 2.1m Chelsea paid Norwich for Robert Fleck in 1992.

Crystal Palace yesterday held talks with Ray Wilkins, the former England midfielder released by Queen's Park Rangers. Alan Smith, the newly promoted club's manager, hopes to finalise Wilkins' transfer after contacting Ron Noades, the Eagles chairman currently holidaying in Spain.

'Ray is a fine player and we are working hard to persuade him to come here,' Smith said. Wilkins, whose illustrious career began at Chelsea in 1973, also interested Coventry City, but the Hillingdon-born 37-year-old is known to favour staying in London.

Coventry announced yesterday they had rejected offers for their two best young players, Phil Babb and Peter Ndlovu. 'We have had bids of over pounds 2m for both but we did not even consider them,' Bryan Richardson, the Highfield Road chairman, said. Babb, the pacy Irish centre-half, has been linked with Newcastle while Blackburn are reported to be admirers of the attacking Ndlovu.

Bradford City, who narrowly missed a place in the end-of-season Second Division play-offs, yesterday appointed the experienced Lennie Lawrence as manager. The former Charlton and Middlesbrough manager, who succeeds Frank Stapleton, will be allowed funds to enter the transfer market.

Rangers are interested in Bryan Gunn, Norwich's respected Scottish international keeper, to replace the transfer-listed Andy Goram. Norwich may re-employ Chris Woods, out of favour at Sheffield Wednesday, if Gunn heads north.

Portsmouth have rejected Ipswich's pounds 1m offer for Kit Symons, their Wales centre-half. Port Vale have resisted Wolves' attempt to sign Ian Taylor, their prolific midfielder, for pounds 350,000 plus a player.

Carl Veart, Adelaide City's 24- year-old Australian forward, is to join Sheffield United for pounds 400,000.

The Football Association announced yesterday that it would take no disciplinary action against John Fashanu, who was accused of elbowing Oldham's Richard Jobson. Oldham's video of the alleged incident failed to influence the FA.

Two Scotland defenders, Alan McLaren, of Hearts, and Rangers' David Robertson, have withdrawn from the squad to play the Netherlands in Utrecht tomorrow. McLaren has been told to rest for eight weeks while Robertson is suffering from hamstring trouble. Steve Clarke, Furlong's new club- mate, will start.