Football: Leeds ready to sign Kerslake

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The Independent Online
LEEDS UNITED'S search for a right-back neared its conclusion yesterday when they agreed to pay Swindon pounds 500,000 for David Kerslake, an outlay that will be more than offset by the sale of Scott Sellars to Newcastle for pounds 700,000.

The offer for Kerslake, a former England Under-21 cap whom Ossie Ardiles took to Swindon from Queen's Park Rangers for pounds 110,000 in 1989, follows a failed attempt to recruit Gary Charles from Nottingham Forest. Charles was willing to join Leeds, but Chris Fairclough refused to move in the opposite direction in part-exchange.

Howard Wilkinson then concentrated his efforts on the 26-year-old Kerslake, and Swindon's precarious financial position made them willing sellers. Leeds's quest for a right-back had its origins a year ago, after Mel Sterland was seriously injured at Tottenham.

David Batty, Jon Newsome and Gary Speed, among others, have all appeared in the role, and enquiries have been made about numerous players, including Dennis Irwin (Manchester United), David Bardsley (QPR) and Charles. The Leeds manager still hopes to buy a central defender, with Wimbledon's John Scales first choice.

Ironically, the Yorkshire-born Scales left Leeds on a free transfer during Billy Bremner's time as manager, joining Bristol Rovers. Four months earlier, Bremner sold Sellars to Blackburn for pounds 20,000, and Leeds had to pay an additional pounds 700,000 to buy him back last summer. Now, after only 10 first-team appearances, the left-sided midfielder makes his Newcastle debut against Charlton tonight.

Sellars, 27, will be joined by 24- year-old Mark Robinson, a right- back and occasional midfielder, who has joined the First Division leaders from Barnsley for pounds 450,000. Robinson was once released by West Bromwich Albion, but Kevin Keegan was lavish in his praise of him yesterday.

'I've had shining reports about Mark and unfortunately we saw how well he can play when we lost 1-0 at Barnsley,' the Newcastle manager said. 'Both he and Sellars will put pressure on a lot of people. We've bought at the right time, and this shows our determination to get into the Premier League. The fact that Scott has left Leeds to come here says it all. He will fit perfectly into our style of play.'

The transfer deadline falls a fortnight on Thursday, but Tranmere are also intent on an early start. The Merseyside club, whose promotion challenge has faltered since John Aldridge's absence through suspension and injury, have agreed to pay Celtic pounds 400,000 for Tommy Coyne. The former Dundee and Dundee United striker will discuss personal terms today with the Tranmere manager, Johnny King.

Tommy Caton, tipped as a future England player in his early days at Manchester City and Arsenal, has been forced to retire at 30 because of injury. The Charlton defender has not played for two years.

Arsenal, meanwhile, have restored Mark Flatts and Ray Parlour to their squad for tonight's Coca-Cola Cup semi-final second leg at home to Crystal Palace. Arsenal start with a 3-1 lead.

Keren Barrett, of Coventry, a machine-tool maintenance foreman with Rolls Royce, will referee the FA Cup final on 15 May. Both semi-finals are to be televised live on 4 April, BBC1 screening the Arsenal-Spurs match at Wembley (midday) and BSkyB showing the second game, at either Old Trafford or Elland Road, at 3pm.

Mel Rees, the Sheffield United goalkeeper, has had a second operation for cancer of the bowel. Rees, 26, who was thought to have made a recovery after an operation last August, was taken ill at the weekend. After the first operation he was expected to be out for at least a year, but he appeared on the substitutes' bench for United earlier in the season.

Bruce Grobbelaar, the Liverpool goalkeeper, had a brain scan yesterday - 10 days after being struck on the head by a lump of concrete thrown from the terraces while playing in a World Cup qualifying match for Zimbabwe against Egypt in Cairo. .

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