Football: Ferdinand commits himself to West Ham until 2005

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The Independent Online
There were smiles all round at West Ham yesterday when teenager Rio Ferdinand tied himself to the club for the next seven years, but at neighbouring Spurs there was little to lift a troubled club. Mark Burton reports.

Rio Ferdinand, the rising star of England's defence, has committed himself to West Ham until 2005, and says he "did not have to think twice" about doing so.

Ferdinand, 19, agreed to extend his existing four-year contract by a further three years as part of negotiations to increase his salary following his call-up to the England side against Cameroon last month. The seven- year deal will net Ferdinand pounds 2.5m.

Both player and club believe the new deal will finally put an end to speculation that Manchester United were aiming to sign one of the country's most exciting young prospects on a "pay now, play later" basis.

Across the city at White Hart Lane, two of the older players were attempting to smooth over the problems caused, in part by Ferdinand's cousin, Les, criticising the club's new Swiss coach, Christian Gross.

Gary Mabbutt believes Gross's imperfect English, and resulting lack of communication, is the root cause of much of the uncertainty. Mabbutt insists the players are confident that Gross, despite two significant distractions, will stay at the club and that he will lead them out of relegation trouble.

Tottenham are to appeal against the Department for Education and Employment's decision to deny a work permit to Gross's chosen fitness trainer, Fritz Schmid, and Gross himself has dismissed suggestions he will leave to become the Swiss national coach as "speculation".

Mabbutt thinks a language problem has resulted in confused and contradictory messages coming out of the club. "Mr Gross's English is perfectly adequate, but at times, in a press conference situation, things can be misunderstood. I understand he was asked the same question in three different ways and maybe what he meant to say was not put as clearly as it could have been.

"Now the position has been clarified, although it has caused a couple of days of uncertainty, and the players are all convinced that he will see out his contract. We are all working as hard as we can to turn around the situation we are in."

Ferdinand and Darren Anderton, who are out injured again, expressed concern over Gross's methods, claiming in newspaper interviews that their injuries had been exacerbated by training. However, Colin Calderwood, Tottenham's Scotland defender, told BBC Radio 5 Live: "Les and Darren, especially with the amount of time they have been out, have come back and now seem to be out again for hopefully not more than two or three weeks. That makes them unhappy and that's obviously where the stories have come from."

Gary Speed's position at Goodison Park continues to be in question, with Sheffield Wednesday offering pounds 5m plus a player, believed to be Jim Magilton, for the Everton captain. The offer improves on one of pounds 4.5m from Newcastle. Good news for Everton is that the French striker Mickael Madar has completed his free transfer from the Spanish club Deportivo La Coruna.

Manchester City have denied that Newcastle United have made a pounds 12m offer - made up of pounds 5m and three players - for Georgi Kinkladze. A spokesman said there is "no substance" to the reports.

Ally McCoist may be joining Sunderland from Rangers. The 35-year-old forward is considering a three-month loan.