Football: Italians close on Everton winger

Fiorentina officials were flying into Merseyside yesterday aiming to put the seal on their bid to buy Andrei Kanchelskis from Everton. The Italians have offered pounds 6m for the Russian international winger, but Everton are believed to be holding out for pounds 8m.

Fiorentina, who claim to have the player's agreement for the move, received a fax from Everton yesterday inviting them to settle the deal this evening. The Fiorentina managing director, Luciano Luna, who faces a race against time as the transfer market in Italy closes at midnight, said: "Kanchelskis has always been one of our objectives.

"On Monday night, we made a substantial offer to Everton. We hope to wrap everything up by 30 January, so that he can start straight away. However, we're also willing to buy him after 30 January," Luna added. "We've already agreed terms with Kanchelskis over salary and the length of the contract." The package is believed to be a basic pounds 2.5m for the four-year contract, plus bonuses.

The Everton manager, Joe Royle, splashed out pounds 5.5m to bring Kanchelskis from Manchester United two summers ago, hoping he would be the spark to ignite the club. Kanchelskis quickly won over the fans but his displays this season have been hugely disappointing.

However, the Fiorentina coach, Claudio Ranieri, has been impressed with the winger after watching recent tapes of him in action. The Italians hope that, playing alongside the Argentinian striker Gabriel Batistuta, Kanchelskis would give them a chance of finishing second in Serie A this season and earning a place in the expanded Champions' League.

Paul Gascoigne will be included in Glenn Hoddle's England squad to face Italy at Wembley on 12 February despite having his left ankle in plaster. The England coach held further talks with the Rangers manager, Walter Smith, yesterday and now believes Gascoigne, injured in a six-a-side tournament in Amsterdam on Monday, has a fighting chance of making the game.

"I've spoken to Glenn and told him I will be ready for the England match - there's no doubt about it," Gascoigne said last night. "Monday is vital for me, as I'll see if I'm training Tuesday or Wednesday. Hopefully next Wednesday I'll be kicking a ball."

Hoddle has seen his plans disrupted by injuries to Teddy Sheringham and Andy Hinchcliffe. David Platt is still suffering from a hamstring problem and Darren Anderton remains a perennial casualty .

On the plus side, Alan Shearer is back and set to pick up the captain's armband again - and Graeme Le Saux is set to complete his year-long battle against a serious ankle injury and regain his international place. The 28-year-old looks likely to be propelled straight into the team in the absence of Hinchcliffe, who had made the left wing-back position his own until he suffered a long-term knee ligament injury against Leeds last December.

Alex Ferguson's sick list is a big worry for Hoddle, with David Beckham struggling with an ankle injury and Gary Pallister's back still a problem. But Liverpool's Jamie Redknapp has reclaimed his Anfield place and will hope for an England call as well, though Newcastle's Rob Lee is another option.

Up front Shearer is booked for his comeback against the Italians, probably to resume his pounds 21m Tyneside partnership with Les Ferdinand. Between them they have hit 35 goals for Newcastle this season and they were up front together when Poland were beaten 2-1 at Wembley last October.

With Ian Wright back from club suspension for Arsenal, Robbie Fowler going strong for Liverpool and Matt Le Tissier still producing the goods at The Dell, Hoddle's only doubt is over the form of Everton's Nick Barmby.

David Seaman's return to fitness removes worries about the goalkeeping position, but both Ian Walker and David James have been in mixed form since the game against Georgia in Tbilisi and Hoddle will be re-examinining the claims of Tim Flowers and Nigel Martyn.

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<b>Kathryn Williams</b>
When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
He was being courted by the same record company who had signed me and subsequently let me go, and I wanted him to know that there were people around who didn't want anything from him. At the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, on the last night of the tour, Ray stopped in his set to thank me for doing the support. He said I was a really good songwriter and people should buy my stuff. I was taken aback and felt emotionally overwhelmed. Later that year, just before I had my boy Louis, I was l asleep in bed with Radio 4 on when Louis moved around in my belly and woke me up. Ray was doing a session on the World Service. </p>
I really believe that Louis recognised the music from the tour, and when I gave birth to him at home I played Ray's record as something that he would recognise to come into the world with. </p>
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