Football: Eager Arsenal talk to Sinton as the phoney war ends: The big kick-off sees Queen's Park Rangers trying to hold on to one of their leading internationals. Trevor Haylett reports

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The Independent Online
ANDY SINTON is still a Queen's Park Rangers player as the new football season begins today but he is unlikely to be for much longer. Next week he could be wearing the red and white of Arsenal, playing in front of the 12,000 all-seater North Bank Stand, which is one new acquisiton that will definitely be unveiled before the Highbury faithful this afternoon.

Rangers said yesterday that they have accepted Arsenal's pounds 2.7m offer for the 27-year-old England winger and the player will meet the manager George Graham after the weekend to discuss personal terms.

'Our bid has been accepted but we have still to speak to the player and his agent and his lawyer and his accountant, and that is usually the longest piece in the jigsaw,' said Graham, whose good humour suggests he is confident of beating off rival interest from both Sheffield Wednesday and Blackburn. 'There is no way he will be involved in either of our first two games over the weekend (at home to Coventry today and at Tottenham on Monday).

'There's competition from another club and we have to try and convince the boy that Arsenal is the club for him. We have made our offer and will not go any higher. We won't get involved in an auction.'

Graham's confidence may not yet be realised with Sinton understood last night to be hoping the two northern clubs renew their interest. Arsenal had hoped to tie up the transfer yesterday so he was eligible for the first two rounds of the Cup-Winners' Cup.

Rangers have refused to sell until now when the signing of Trevor Sinclair from Blackpool for pounds 750,000 - ironically from under the noses of Blackburn, who made a late attempt to divert him to Ewood Park - paved the way for Sinton's departure.

'We have agreed a fee with Arsenal but I still hope Andy might change his mind and stay,' the Rangers manager, Gerry Francis, said . 'Sheffield Wednesday have made several bids but none have been acceptable. The chairman and I had a meeting with Andy on Tuesday when he said he was bitterly disappointed that offers made to the club had been turned down. We made him an improved offer to try and keep him. He spoke to us about certain figures and they were a million miles from what we can do.'

Francis has also been under great pressure to fend off interest in top scorer Les Ferdinand. He described talk of a pounds 7m Blackburn bid for the pair as 'absolute garbage' and added: 'I've had a long chat with Les and he says he is determined to make sure he has another good season for us.'

Graham admits his refusal to break the Highbury pay structure has cost him signings in the past but says the policy will not change. 'We will not put people on double the wages of others in the team,' he said. 'Certain players get more but the differential is not massive. Too many clubs, and I mean big clubs, are in financial difficulties and one of the main reasons is the wage structure they employ.'

Neither Sinton nor Sinclair will be involved today when Rangers visit Aston Villa. They join other notable first-day absentees like Peter Beardsley (injured) and the suspended Tim Flowers, another whose season's preparations are obscured by transfer interest from Liverpool.

Manchester United are also given the day off, permitted another 24 hours to savour the championship triumph that bridged a 26-year wait before their defence opens at Norwich before the television cameras.

Even without the champions, the first-day fixtures contain enough to dispel the notion that it is all come around again too quickly. There is Glenn Hoddle v Kenny Dalglish, Kevin Keegan v Ossie Ardiles, Graeme Souness v Trevor Francis: three fascinating head-to-heads that not so long ago would have enthralled spectators on the pitch but now confined to the touchline.

Except, that is, in Hoddle's case; the maestro beginning at 35 his first game in the top flight for six years and now with the added responsibility of managing Chelsea. He completed the pounds 400,000 signing of Danish international defender, Jakob Kjeldbjerg, from Silkeborg yesterday, but not in time for the 23-year-old to make his debut at home to Blackburn.

Ardiles, also in his first game in charge of Tottenham, makes a swift return to Newcastle who dismissed him 18 months ago and paved the way for Keegan. Neither club nor tenderfoot manager has had cause to look back since.

Yesterday Keegan paid Millwall pounds 300,000 for the Welsh international, Malcolm Allen, who will fill the six- week void caused by Beardsley's fractured cheekbone. He also re-signed former goalkeeper John Burridge, 41, given a free transfer by Hibernian.

Souness's Liverpool parade their new signings, Nigel Clough and Neil Ruddock, against Sheffield Wednesday for whom Francis is hoping Des Walker can revive a career that turned sour for him both at club and international level.

Canny Keegan, Football League

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