Football: Dispute over 'pounds 2.3m' goalie who is only 16

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The Independent Online
A DISPUTE was brewing last night over whether or not West Ham United had agreed a massive deal to sign a 16-year-old goalkeeper from Rochdale on a five-year contract.

As far as the Rochdale manager, Graham Barrow, was concerned Michael Bywater, an England youth international, had linked up with the Premiership side in a deal that could eventually bring the Third Division club pounds 2.3 million, according to appearances and international caps.

Barrow was quoted as saying the player "could even turn out to be a bargain", and that the sale could generate pounds 500,000 for him to spend on "seven or eight players, so it's a good deal all round".

But the east London club's chief executive, Peter Storrie, flatly denied such a deal had been done for a player his club has had in for training, reportedly describing the story as "pure fantasy".

He was quoted as saying: "We've not even paid the reported pounds 300,000 to sign him for the rest of the season."

However, he was also reported as saying: "We have not given Rochdale a penny and they will only get the pounds 300,000 agreed when we sign him on a permanent basis at the end of the season."

Bywater, he reportedly said, would have to clock up a number of games for the Hammers and be an England regular for the fee to get anywhere near the sum suggested, adding: "I hope he does cost us that sort of money in the long run. It would mean we have one hell of a player."

Bywater, who let in six goals on his single appearance for Rochdale in an Auto Windscreen Shield match against Carlisle in January, is on YTS forms and cannot sign a professional contract until his 17th birthday, in June.