Football: Gullit to offer pounds 8m for Ferguson

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RUUD GULLIT, the Newcastle manager, wants to sign the Everton captain, Duncan Ferguson, from under the noses of North-east rivals Sunderland. He is willing to pay around pounds 8m to sign the Scottish striker and may include the winger Keith Gillespie as part of the deal.

The Dutchman wants more strength and physical presence in his team and hopes that the Newcastle board will back his bid today. However, if Ferguson were to be signed it might suggest that the future of Alan Shearer at Newcastle is under threat. Funds raised by selling the England captain, signed by Newcastle for pounds 15m from Blackburn in July 1996, could then help Gullit to strengthen a side who, after losing 1-0 at Everton last night, have gone five matches without a win.

The Newcastle manager indicated after the defeat at Goodison that he would not prevent Shearer from leaving the club if the striker, who is injured at the moment, wanted to do so. "I think he is a world class player and I would like to keep him," Gullit said. "But I don't know if he as a player really wants to stay and that is the point... It is up to him, not to me."

Gullit was alerted to Ferguson's availability by news that his Sunderland counterpart, Peter Reid, was preparing an offer for the former Rangers forward and Newcastle made an approach to Everton last night.

The Everton manager, Walter Smith, will not be keen to lose Ferguson, who has been the centre of his tactical thinking this season. However, the club's chairman, Peter Johnson, may be tempted by the fee to balance the books after Smith's pounds 17m spending on players.

Harry Redknapp has apologised to West Ham's chief executive, Peter Storrie, and the rest of the Upton Park board for his outburst over the transfer of Andy Impey to Leicester City.

The Hammers manager attended a board meeting yesterday where talks were held. Storrie said: "Harry has apologised for his comments. We've shaken hands and he has said he regrets the things he said.

"Harry was just concerned because he wanted to play the player in yesterday's game at Derby, but he realises now that he got too heated and said some unnecessary things.

"Harry accepts that this transfer is necessary and is now happy about the situation. I have had a very close working relationship with Harry for the past five years and we both want to carry on working closely together for the good of the club."

Storrie had earlier criticised Redknapp and accused him of scaremongering, because the Upton Park manager had said he feared that players like Rio Ferdinand may be sold.

"It is absolute nonsense," Storrie said. "I think the truth of the matter is that he didn't like being overruled. We had to get a certain amount of money in to balance the books and they are now balanced. Harry always knew we had to do this from the start of the season.

"The worst comment he made was saying someone like me didn't know anything about football. That is insulting and it is nonsense."

Impey was due to have a medical last night and is expected to complete his transfer to Filbert Street today. Despite Storrie's words, Redknapp may yet be obliged to sell another player. There were reports last night that a second sale may be demanded by the board.

Liverpool will hold back on any move to bring the AZ67 Alkmaar defender, Peter Wijker, to Merseyside. Gerard Houllier, the club's manager, went to the Netherlands on Sunday to watch the 6ft 3in player. "We will not be making a move just yet but we will see how he progresses," the Frenchman said.

Fourteen of Europe's top clubs, including Manchester United and Liverpool, have reached agreement for an expansion of the Champions' League from 24 to 32 teams next season. But the Football Association will today ask for a 12-month delay to the new format at a meeting with Uefa, football's European governing body.