Football: Easy start in prospect for Hamilton

BRYAN HAMILTON, Northern Ireland's new manager, should have a gentle introduction to the rigours of international competition. His side embark on their 1996 European Championship qualifying campaign with a home game against Liechtenstein on 20 April.

The Group Six nations decided their fixture lists at a meeting in Vienna yesterday, and the Republic of Ireland were also given a flying start, on 7 September away to Latvia, the side they beat twice in the World Cup qualifiers.

Karren Brady, Birmingham City's chief executive, renewed her attack on the Birmingham Evening Mail, taking the conflict on to the Xtra AM 'Celebrity Sports Forum' television programme.

Last weekend she threatened to organise a boycott of the paper unless it agreed to sponsor the club, and on Xtra AM, transmitted last night, she told the Evening Mail reporter, Colin Tattum: 'You've been ripping off the club for over 100 years.' She also threatened to ban Tattum from using City's press facilities.

Sheffield United completed the pounds 500,000 transfer of Cardiff City's top scorer, Nathan Blake, after he turned down the chance to play in tomorrow's FA Cup fifth-round meeting with Luton Town.

Blake, on a weekly contract with the Third Division club after failing to agree a new contract, has scored 17 times this season, including the goal which knocked out Manchester City in the last round.

Kevin Ratcliffe, the former Wales and Everton defender, has signed for Derby County until the end of the season following a month's trial at the Baseball Ground.