Football: Coventry ask Babb bidders to raise offers: Liverpool made to wait

COVENTRY continues to resemble the centre of the transfer universe, with no fewer than five moves on the agenda, but the pivotal deal was put on hold when the Sky Blues rejected Liverpool's pounds 3.5m offer for Phil Babb.

The previous evening, both Babb and Liverpool seemed confident that the Republic of Ireland centre-back, subject of a similar bid by Tottenham recently, was Anfield-bound. The fee would have been a British record for a defender, and Babb was earmarked to partner Neil Ruddock at Crystal Palace on Saturday.

Instead, Bryan Richardson, Coventry's chairman, announced his determination yesterday to hold out for a higher sum. He is sensitive to the club's history of selling its playing assets, a fact cited by Bobby Gould when he resigned as manager last October.

'We've been approached by a number of clubs and received offers of pounds 3.5m. We have rejected those offers and that is where we stand,' Richardson said. 'I have no price in mind at which Phil Babb will be sold, but there is a price at which it makes good, logical sense to sell any player.

'So far no one has offered more than pounds 3.5m and we'll just have to wait and see what develops - if anything - but if both (Liverpool and Spurs) stick where they are, we won't do any business. It's that simple.'

Fighting talk, seemingly designed to provoke an auction for Babb, although Coventry's debts of more than pounds 3m make it a matter of when, rather than whether, they sell the 23-year-old Londoner. Only Oldham and Wimbledon drew an average attendance lower than their 13,500 in last season's Premiership, and the club are losing pounds 11,000 a week in interest payments alone.

Roy Evans, keen to make Babb his first major recruit as Liverpool manager, said last night that 'negotiations have not broken down - they're still going on'. He added: 'I have a price we may have to pay, but I wouldn't want to go an awful lot higher.'

The fact that Coventry are resigned to selling Babb was underlined by a pounds 1.4m offer from their manager, Phil Neal, for Bradford City's central defender, Dean Richards. The Second Division club, who sold Babb to Coventry for pounds 500,000 two years ago, also want more.

Neal drew another blank in his attempt to sign Bob Taylor, West Bromwich Albion's leading scorer. He had offered pounds 500,000, plus two players, the full-back, Paul Williams, and the striker, John Williams.

Coventry, however, did secure Paul Cook, the Wolves midfielder, for pounds 600,000. They have also taken Gary Gillespie, the centre-back released by Celtic, on a trial basis. Gillespie originally arrived at Highfield Road from Falkirk in 1978.

Another veteran, the centre-forward, Mick Harford, could be on his way from Coventry, having met the Wimbledon manager, Joe Kinnear, to discuss a pounds 75,000 transfer.

Babb's fellow Irish international defender, Alan Kernaghan, yesterday joined Bolton from Manchester City on a month's loan - less than a year after arriving at Maine Road from Middlesbrough for pounds 1.6m.

Joey Beauchamp, West Ham's unsettled summer signing from Oxford, has joined Swindon in exchange for the former Leyton Orient centre-back, Adrian Whitbread. West Ham receive a pounds 350,000 cash adjustment, Whitbread being valued at pounds 750,000.

Beauchamp had joined the Hammers in June for pounds 1m, but almost immediately asked for a transfer, saying that he had made a mistake and was homesick.

Sam Hammam, Wimbledon's owner, has threatened to change the club's name following the decision of Merton Council to refuse planning permission for a supermarket on the site of the club's former ground, Plough Lane.

Hammam claimed council 'treachery' meant they could not build a new stadium in their 'home' area, and said he was considering relocating the club elsewhere in the capital.

Terry Yorath, out of football since losing his job as Wales's manager, is a member of the consortium which expects to take over his home- town club, Cardiff City, today.

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