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Football: Kinsella's fate rests with Fifa

CHARLTON ATHLETIC will find out today whether they have to release their captain Mark Kinsella and their first-choice goalkeeper, Sasa Ilic, for next week's rearranged Yugoslavia v Republic of Ireland European Championship qualifier.

The pair have been named in their respective countries' squads for the 18 November fixture, which was moved back from last month because of the tense political situation in the Balkans at the time.

Under Fifa regulations, clubs must release their players five days before an international - and that would result in Kinsella and Ilic missing Charlton's Premiership encounter with Middlesbrough on Saturday. Now the south London club have accused the two nations and world football's ruling body of failing to give them at least 14 days' notice of the rearranged game.

A Fifa spokesman said yesterday: "The case has been referred to the Players' Status Committee. It is responsible for dealing with any situation where there's a dispute or uncertainty about a player's availability. We're waiting for its decision tomorrow."

So far Charlton have failed to get the five-day rule waived or the Middlesbrough game moved - if the international had been staged on its original date of 14 October the two players would have missed no club matches. Now Charlton's managing director, Peter Varney, has written to the Football Association of Ireland and the Yugoslav FA, informing them they will not release the players until after they play against Middlesbrough.

Hull City have parted company with Mark Hateley, their player-manager. The 37-year-old former England centre- forward's job has been under threat in the wake of last week's takeover. The British Davis Cup tennis captain, David Lloyd, sold the club, claiming a lack of support in the city.

Hull's experienced midfielder, Warren Joyce, was in caretaker charge for last night's home game against Brighton. Russell Slade, the youth- team coach at Sheffield United and a former Notts County manager, has been linked with the vacancy.

Paul Merson was yesterday reported to be considering retiring from international football to concentrate his efforts on Aston Villa's assault on the Premiership title.

"I haven't a lot of time left to win a championship again - this season is the ideal opportunity for me," the Villa midfielder said. "Retiring from international football would get me fresher and sharper for the domestic game."

The Villa manager, John Gregory, is considering a move to sign the Finnish Under-21 international goalkeeper, Petr Enkelmen. The highly rated player has joined Villa on trial, as Gregory draws up contingency plans in the event of Mark Bosnich leaving the club next summer. The Australian international is out of contract at the end of the season, and Gregory has resigned himself to the fact that he will be leaving Villa Park.

Gregory, who has described rumours linking him with the Ipswich keeper Richard Wright as "nonsense", also has a 26-year-old American keeper, Marcus Hahnemann, being put through his paces at Villa Park. But the 21- year-old 6ft 3in Enkelmen looks to be closest to sealing a move to Villa Park.

Gregory said: "We are assessing two very highly regarded goalkeepers because we must be ready to respond, should Mark decide to leave the club next summer.

"Petr will be here until we decide what we are going to do. But there is no doubt about the potential that he has," added Gregory, who last week took his spending at Villa on new players to pounds 21m with the signing of Dion Dublin.

Sheffield Wednesday have made an enquiry about Celtic's Swedish striker Henrik Larsson. However, according to the club's official web site, they were told that the Scottish champions' current top scorer - rated at around pounds 4m - is not for sale.

Stoke City have accepted a pounds 150,000 offer from Dundee for Steven Tweed, but a deal depends on the centre-back agreeing personal terms

Wolves' caretaker manager, Colin Lee, has offered pounds 300,000 for Robert Niestroj, a 23-year-old midfield player with Fortuna Dusseldorf, despite admitting he has not seen him play. Port Vale have signed the Norwegian utility player Robin Berntsen on loan from Tromso.

Crystal Palace's Chinese defender Fan Zhiyi has been charged with misconduct by the Football Association, following an incident at his club's First Division match at West Bromwich on 3 November. He is alleged to have manhandled the referee Terry Heilbron at the end of Palace's 3-2 defeat.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND SQUAD (European Championship qualifier v Yugoslavia, Belgrade, 18 November): Given (Newcastle), Kiely (Bury); Irwin (Manchester Utd), Kenna (Blackburn), Staunton (Liverpool), Harte (Leeds), Cunningham (Wimbledon), Babb (Liverpool), Breen (Coventry), Roy Keane (Manchester Utd), Kinsella (Charlton), McLoughlin (Portsmouth), McAteer (Liverpool), Duff (Blackburn), Whalley (Bradford City), Cascarino (Nancy), Quinn (Sunderland), Delap (Derby), Connolly (Wolves), O'Neill (Norwich).

Football, pages 28, 29