Football: Keown returns to Arsenal for 2m pounds

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The Independent Online
ARSENAL last night paid pounds 2m for Martin Keown, the Everton and England central defender, six and a half years after George Graham sold him to Aston Villa for a tenth of that amount, writes Phil Shaw.

Keown, 26, is Graham's sixth seven-figure signing and brings the number of experienced centre-backs at Highbury to six. Tony Adams and Andy Linighan played there at home to Liverpool on Sunday, when a 1-0 defeat left Arsenal 11th in the Premier League, while Graham can also call on David O'Leary, Colin Pates and Steve Bould.

Linighan, a pounds 1.25m recruit from Norwich, has been linked with Chelsea, though Graham confirmed that he will 'almost certainly' play in Arsenal's FA Cup fourth-round replay at Leeds tomorrow because Keown is cup- tied and Bould injured.

'I've signed Martin as a long- term investment,' Graham said. 'He is an outstanding centre- half.' Eyebrows may be raised over the deal, not only because Arsenal already have the division's second-best defensive record and the second-worst scoring rate, but because of the circumstances of Keown's departure from Highbury in 1986.

He recalled last year that Graham, who had been manager a month, offered him pounds 50 a week less than he wanted. 'It seemed crazy that they wouldn't agree and although I didn't want to leave and they didn't want me to go, it became a matter of principle.' Yesterday he said: 'I was a young man then, faced with a difficult decision. I'm lucky to be offered a second chance.'

Graham Taylor is another who had second thoughts about the pacy Keown. As Villa manager he sold him to Everton for pounds 750,000 in 1989 but has since awarded him nine caps.

Uefa yesterday dampened English hopes of a third club in next season's Uefa Cup. English clubs lost all their ranking points in the ban which followed the Heysel disaster, and the early exits of Manchester United and Sheffield Wednesday from this season's competition have not helped the position. 'Pressure has been applied to get an extra club for England, but we must abide by the rules,' an official of the governing body said.

Club Bruges have appealed against the Uefa ruling forcing them to play their next European Cup match, against Rangers, behind closed doors. Uefa made the ruling as punishment for crowd trouble by Bruges supporters during a tie at Marseille in December.

Port Vale have signed Gareth Griffiths, a centre-back, from Rhyl for a 'small fee'. Stoke have failed to recruit Roger Palmer, the Oldham striker, on loan.