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Football: Hamann will not be fit for three months

THE LIVERPOOL midfielder Dietmar Hamann will be out of action for three months after undergoing an ankle operation in Germany.

The Merseysiders' pounds 8m summer signing limped off after just 25 minutes of his debut at Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday. The Liverpool manager, Gerard Houllier, said: "It is a big blow for us. Didi has torn his posterior ligaments. He has had an operation and will be out for between 10 to 12 weeks. He is disappointed, but he is naturally strong. He knows these things happen sometimes."

With the German international out for so long, the young midfielder Stephen Gerrard is ready to step into the midfield void. Gerrard is highly regarded at Anfield and was invited to train with Kevin Keegan's England squad last season. Now he is battling with Danny Murphy and David Thompson for the midfield role alongside the club captain, Jamie Redknapp.

"I've got to wait for Gerard Houllier to give me the go- ahead to play on Saturday," Gerrard said yesterday. "If he does, then I've got to try to make it a permanent place. I want to play in as many League games as I can.

"Hopefully I will get the chance on Saturday to prove what I'm made of. I've got the confidence and also a bit of experience from last season."

Houllier said: "It is up to the youngsters to show that they are up for it. We have Murphy, Gerrard and Thompson in midfield. It is an opportunity for them. We have various options and I will look at them over the week. I haven't made up my mind what I will do."

The Aston Villa manager, John Gregory, has told Wolves he will abandon plans to sign the striker Robbie Keane unless they reduce their pounds 6m asking price.

Gregory insisted that Villa will not be increasing their "excellent" bid - believed to be around pounds 5m - for the Republic of Ireland international, who has also been a target for Middlesbrough. "There is no change in the situation," Gregory said. "We have put a valuation on Robbie Keane and Wolverhampton Wanderers have put a different value on him - and we are a little bit apart at the moment.

"We still feel we have made what we consider to be the right offer and unless Wolves are willing to lessen their valuation of the player then nothing will be happening. I wouldn't say I am losing patience but when you buy anything if you think it's worth a certain price you don't want to be paying over the odds for it.

"If Wolves feel they can get the money they want from somebody else, then they will try and hang on but we certainly won't be increasing the offer we have made. That's as high as we will be going - although I gather the price has gone up anyway after Robbie's goal on Sunday!"

Nottingham Forest have turned down a bid by their First Division rivals Birmingham City to sign Carlton Palmer on loan.

The Forest manager, David Platt, will only consider letting the former England international leave in a cash deal. The Blues manager, Trevor Francis, said: "Carlton would have been a useful addition to the squad. But David said `no'."

Palmer, 33, did not figure in the squad that lost 3-1 at Ipswich on Saturday.

William Hill have cut the odds on the Newcastle manager, Ruud Gullit, resigning or being sacked before the end of the season from 4-1 to 2-1 after the Magpies suffered their second successive Premiership defeat at Tottenham on Monday night. And the Geordies have been cut from 12-1 to 10-1 to be relegated, and their title odds have lengthened from 40- 1 to 125-1.