Football: FA plays down significance of Keegan's England fight night

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THE Football Association yesterday dismissed the notion that Kevin Keegan put his England side's performance against Scotland at Wembley in jeopardy by staying up until dawn with five players to watch Lennox Lewis' world heavyweight title fight last Saturday night.

Yesterday's tabloid newspapers went to town on Paul Ince's revelations that after the 1-0 defeat he was among the small group of players who watched the fight on television in the team hotel with Keegan. But the FA spokesman, Steve Double, said in a statement yesterday: "Kevin Keegan talked openly last Monday about the arrangements which he had made with his players last weekend. He was then praised for treating his players like adults. In our view, there isn't an issue to discuss."

Uefa, the game's European ruling body, is studying reports from their official delegate and the French referee, Gilles Velssiere, before deciding what action to take after the violent scenes involving players and supporters which followed the Republic of Ireland's Euro 2000 play-off against Turkey in Bursa on Wednesday night.

"It is likely to be left until the next meeting of our disciplinary committee on 16 December, but if the reports suggest the trouble was very bad, we could act before then," a Uefa spokeswoman said.

Derby County's efforts to sign the pounds 4.5m-rated Scotland pair of Colin Hendry and Craig Burley collapsed dramatically last night.

The Rangers centre-half Hendry and Celtic's midfielder Burley, who both played at Wembley on Wednesday, were due to join but the deal apparently collapsed after both players were asked to take a pay cut if Derby were relegated.

Andy Cole is involved in a race row with the former Nottingham Forest striker Peter Davenport. In his recently published autobiography, the Manchester United striker alleged that Davenport called him "chalkie" when he was a teenager at Forest. Davenport, now Macclesfield's assistant manager, has started legal proceedings as he feels he is being portrayed as a racist.

Davenport's manager, Sammy McIlroy, is expected to be interviewed in the coming weeks for the vacant Northern Ireland manager's job. It is understood that the Irish Football Association have made an official approach to Macclesfield for the highly rated manager, who has already said he wants the job.

Manchester City's England Under-21 midfielder, Michael Brown, has joined the former Maine Road manager, Alan Ball, at Portsmouth on a month's loan. The present City manager, Joe Royle, said: "His move to Portsmouth will do him good and it's up to him to go there and sell himself."

Paul Gascoigne and Mark Hughes have been warned by the FA but have escaped punishment after playing in Sir Alex Ferguson's testimonial at Old Trafford last month while officially suspended.

Ian Rush will play two matches in Australia's national league on a visit to promote his football finishing schools. The 38-year-old Welshman will turn out for Sydney Olympic tomorrow against Marconi and on 4 December against Adelaide.

The Manchester United defender John Curtis has joined Barnsley on a month's loan.

Dave Bassett has emerged as a surprise contender for the job of Blackburn Rovers manager. Bassett is a few months into his new contract at Barnsley but Rovers would pay compensation and are willing to give Bassett a deal worth around pounds 600,000 a year.