FOOTBALL: Liverpool pay £2m for teenage Kennedy

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Transfer fees, which have had an astonishing rate of inflation this season, were cranked up another ratchet yesterday when Liverpool completed the £2m transfer of Millwall's Mark Kennedy. The Republic of Ireland Under- 21 winger becomes the most expensive 18-year-old in history.

Liverpool, who had to outbid the Premiership leaders Blackburn Rovers to secure Kennedy, will pay £1.5m immediately with the rest of the fee dependent on first-team appearances. Even so it is an astronomical sum for a player in his first full season.

"Basically we're buying potential even though the fee is quite high," Roy Evans, the Liverpool manager, said. "Mark can play wide left or up front. He's comfortable receiving the ball, he can go past people and he's a good passer. How soon Mark makes it to the first team is up to him. He has to settle in but as soon as he starts doing his stuff I won't be afraid to play him."

The fee can be put in context by Manchester United's purchase of Lee Sharpe from Torquay United in June 1988. Sharpe was 17 and at a slightly earlier stage of his career but his fee of £185,000 for a player who has since represented England is dwarfed by the sum Liverpool have paid for Kennedy. It marks an increase of more than 1,000 per cent in seven years.

Kennedy made his League debut as a 16-year-old against Charlton Athletic and prior to the current season had started in only 10 matches. He has scored nine times this term including a spectacular shot that nudged the attention of the nation in the 2-0 FA Cup win over Arsenal at Highbury.

The deal is Evans' first major transfer since the signing of central defenders John Scales and Phil Babb for more than £7m earlier this season. For his money he gets a player who has supported Liverpool since he was a boy.

"It's the proudest moment of my life," Kennedy, who originates from Dublin, said. "The first I heard of Liverpool's interest was when the gaffer, Mick McCarthy, rang me last night [Monday] and told me to come round to his house because he had some good news for me.

"I've been a Liverpool supporter all my life. My father has travelled so many times to watch them over the last two decades and hopefully the next time he comes over he'll have the chance to watch me play."

Liverpool completed another signing yesterday but this was a new contract for their record scorer, Ian Rush. The 33-year-old is committed to the club until the end of the 1995-96 season.

Everton received encouraging news yesterday when they learned Paul Rideout could be playing within a fortnight. It was feared their leading scorer's knee ligament injury would mean he would miss the rest of the season and his return will remove some of the urgency behind manager Joe Royle's search for a striker.

Royle made a £1.75m bid for Brian Deane on Monday, an offer that was rejected by Leeds United who wish to recoup as much of their £2.9m outlay on the striker - to Sheffield United 20 months ago - as possible. Everton might offer their England Under-21 winger Graham Stuart plus cash.

The Goodison Park club are also rumoured to be interested in Manchester City's Niall Quinn although Aston Villa appear to have pursued his availability more throroughly. An offer of more than £1m would tempt City's manager Brian Horton who prefers a forward partnership of Uwe Rsler and Paul Walsh.

Leeds' attempt to borrow Portsmouth's Mart Poom has run into red tape as the work permit for the Estonian international goalkeeper restricts him to the Fratton Park club only.