Football: Houllier in hot pursuit of Illgner

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The Independent Online
LIVERPOOL ARE hoping it will be third time lucky when they turn their search for a goalkeeper to Real Madrid's German international, Bodo Illgner.

Gerard Houllier, the Liverpool manager, has been in contact with the 31-year-old's agent about a move to Merseyside and has high hopes of success in attracting Illgner, who has played for Real in the Champions' League this season. His future in Spain was plunged into doubt by Real's acquisition of Argentina's Under-21 keeper, Albano Bizzarri.

Liverpool, whose No 1, David James, will be out of contract in 18 months' time, failed to lure Illgner's compatriots Jens Lehmann, who joined Borussia Dortmund instead, and Stefan Klos, who has signed for Rangers.

Antti Niemi, the Finn who seems to have lost his place to Klos at Ibrox, has attracted the attention of Sheffield Wednesday.

Nottingham Forest have made a bid for Bolton's Icelandic top-scorer, Arnar Gunnlaugsson. Forest's manager, Dave Bassett, is keen to add the scorer of 14 goals this season to his shot-shy attack. The Icelander, valued by Bolton at pounds 5m, was left out of Bolton's team for the goalless draw against Bradford on Saturday.

Blackburn Rovers are anxiously awaiting fitness reports on Chris Sutton amid fears that the striker may have damaged knee ligaments. Sutton was carried off in agony during the victory over against Aston Villa on Saturday after a shuddering tackle from Ugo Ehiogu. The striker took the impact on his standing leg, which often leads to ligament trouble.

Sutton's knee was still sore yesterday and club doctors will inspect the problem this week, but the luckless forward could be out for weeks.

Brian Kidd, Blackburn's new manager, looked grim after seeing Sutton. He said: "We will have to give it a day or so before we can tell."

If Sutton is ruled out for a long spell, Blackburn will be under pressure to agree terms with Barnsley's Ashley Ward after opening talks faltered. Ward has rejected Blackburn's pay package but could now be offered more. The clubs have already sorted out a pounds 4.5m fee.

John McGrath, a rugged centre-half, colourful manager and after-dinner speaker, collapsed and died at his home of a suspected heart attack on Christmas Day. He was 60.

As a player, the Manchester-born McGrath served Bury, Southampton, Newcastle United and Brighton as well as winning an England Under-23 cap. He entered management with Port Vale 19 years ago this month, appointing John Rudge as his deputy, and later took charge of Chester, Preston and Halifax.

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