Football: Dublin denial over Boateng transfer

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THE ASTON VILLA striker Dion Dublin has denied allegations by the Coventry chairman, Bryan Richardson, regarding his involvement in the transfer of George Boateng between the clubs. The transfer is the subject of an ongoing Football Association inquiry.

Boateng completed his pounds 4.5m move to Villa Park this week but Richardson claimed that Dublin had approached the Dutch Under-21 international last season on behalf of the Villa management.

"Dion refutes approaching Boateng on behalf of the Aston Villa management," Dublin's advisor, Struan Marshall, said yesterday. "He has already told the FA that as part of their inquiry."

The FA have almost completed their investigations but need to speak to Boateng before passing any judgement.

Richardson had earlier said: "It was well known at the time that Dublin spoke to Boateng not as a friend and former team-mate, but on behalf of the Aston Villa management."

Liverpool's manager, Gerard Houllier, has refused to rule Michael Owen out of the opening game of the new season at Sheffield Wednesday.

Reports suggested the 19-year-old would miss the 7 August opener at Hillsborough, but the club say scans on the striker's damaged hamstring have revealed he has suffered no major setback in his fight for full fitness. Houllier said: "Michael is all right. The scans have shown up nothing. I am very, very pleased for him first of all but also for the club. He can carry on progressing and should not be too far away for the start of the season."

Dietmar Hamann finally joined up with his Liverpool team-mates last night when the pounds 8m German midfielder arrived in a chauffeured Mercedes at his new club's friendly match against Linfield at Windsor Park, Belfast. Liverpool strolled to a 4-0 victory.

The West Ham manager, Harry Redknapp, is trying to sign the Australian centre-back Steven Horvat. The Hajduk Split player had a trial at Upton Park last season and could now make a permanent move.

Horvat has experienced problems acquiring a work permit in the past but a pounds 500,000 move has been arranged subject to the player gaining clearance.

The Fulham manager, Paul Bracewell, has made a player- swap bid to sign Bristol City's Ade Akinbiyi in a pounds 3m deal. Bracewell wants the prolific Akinbiyi to partner Stan Collymore in attack and has offered Barry Hayles in part-exchange.

Hayles was Fulham's record buy a year ago, but has since been under pressure for his place. Akinbiyi will be sold by the new City manager, Tony Pulis, at the right price and Fulham are now strong favourites to sign him over the weekend.

Pulis is interested in the swap deal and could also take other Fulham fringe players in the package if it can be arranged in the current talks.