Football: Francis still has support at Blues

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The Independent Online
The Birmingham City manager, Trevor Francis, has been given 18 months to turn the First Division club into promotion challengers.

The board of directors at St Andrew's yesterday issued a statement supporting him, in a move to dismiss speculation that they are on the verge of sacking the former England striker .

Birmingham have taken only 22 points from 19 League matches this season, winning just five games, but their chairman, David Gold, said: "It is only fair to give the manager time to do the job he was brought in to do. Of course we are concerned with recent results, but we believe that the team is playing well and that it is only a matter of time before the wins come."

Francis has set up a move for the Swedish striker Thomas Andersson, who is a free agent at the end of his contract with Vasteras, where he scored 14 goals last season. Andersson was due to play for Birmingham's reserves last night.

Sheffield Wednesday's new manager, Ron Atkinson, is chasing the Croatian international striker Igor Cvitanovic and the midfielder Silvio Maric. Atkinson flew to Zagreb to watch both men in Uefa Cup action for Croatia Zagreb against Atletico Madrid on Tuesday.

Also abroad scouting is the Leeds manager, George Graham, who will watch the Rosenborg Trondheim striker Sigurd Rushfeldt in his club's Champions' League game at home to Real Madrid tonight. The 24-year-old had a spell with Birmingham City two seasons ago.

The big-spending Second Division club Fulham have signed the defender, Alan Neilson, from Southampton for pounds 250,000, after their pounds 2.1m bid for another Welsh international, Blackburn's Chris Coleman, failed because of the personal terms on offer.

The Sheffield United midfielder Dane Whitehouse could be out of action for a year after suffering a serious knee injury. The 27-year-old faces surgery to repair anterior cruciate and lateral ligament damage sustained during Saturday's goalless draw with Port Vale.

The Chelsea defender Frank Sinclair has opted to fight for a place in Jamaica's World Cup side rather than aim for a chance with England. The Wimbledon forward Robbie Earle, the Derby striker Deon Burton and the Portsmouth players Paul Hall and Fitzroy Simpson are already part of the Jamaican set-up.

The 25-year-old Sinclair said: "I've made up my mind I want to play for Jamaica. Robbie has convinced me that the set-up with Jamaica is excellent and now I have to convince the coach I am worth a place when he comes to England."

Arsenal's Dennis Bergkamp is on a shortlist of five candidates for Fifa's Player of the Year award, to be announced at the World Player Gala at Disneyland in Paris on 12 January. Ronaldo, the holder, Roberto Carlos, Raul Gonzalez and Zinedine Zidane are also on the list announced yesterday by world football's ruling body.