Football: Hall's Keegan block: Newcastle aim to keep manager

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SIR JOHN HALL, the Newcastle United chairman, insisted yesterday that the Magpies manager, Kevin Keegan, would stay at St James' Park, despite his position as a front runner for the England vacancy.

The former England captain has moved ahead of Leeds' Howard Wilkinson as the bookies' market leader on the back of Newcastle's current stylish success and favourable comments by Jimmy Armfield, the Football Association's newly appointed 'special adviser'. Hall dismissed Keegan's 5-2 odds, saying: 'We wouldn't release Keegan and he wouldn't wish to be released.' Tyneside's No 1 idol signed a new contract on 7 October, a move, Hall added, 'to kill off the England speculation'.

Graham Taylor, whose job the FA is trying to fill, has been removed from speculation over the vacancy at Birmingham City but yesterday Barry Fry, of Southend United, and Bolton's Bruce Rioch, emerged as the leading contenders for the St Andrews position.

Middlesbrough and Tranmere have agreed a pounds 700,000 fee for Rovers' highly rated centre-half, Steve Vickers. Another defender, Norway's Tore Pedersen, has completed his pounds 500,000 move to Oldham.

Mixed news for Hearts yesterday: it was confirmed that Graeme Hogg fractured his fibia against Kilmarnock on Tuesday, and will be out of action for two months, but Mo Johnston's suspected broken cheekbone turned out to be a false alarm.

Any lingering hopes Marco van Basten may have harboured of playing in the World Cup finals ended yesterday when Milan's Dutch forward learned he requires further surgery on his injured right ankle.