Football: Newcastle clear way for Batty to go home

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The Independent Online
NEWCASTLE UNITED have accepted a transfer request from David Batty. The 29-year-old England midfielder submitted his request to manager Ruud Gullit yesterday morning amid speculation that he is about to return to his home-town club, Leeds United.

Gullit confirmed that Batty's days at St James' Park are coming to an end, and said that Newcastle are talking to Leeds about a potential move.

"David Batty has asked for a transfer," the Newcastle manager said. "I knew that it was in the air before I came here. He said to me that he has thought about it already over the summer but tried to give it a second chance. His family lives near Leeds and it was obvious that his family wanted him to come back to Leeds."

Batty's impending departure provoked renewed speculation about the future of Alan Shearer, but Gullit was adamant that his apparent difference of opinion with the striker is in the past.

"Alan wants to stay and I want him to stay," he said. "Now the issue is over. There's no issue anymore."

Shearer, meanwhile, denied reports that Duncan Ferguson, signed this week from Everton, was his choice as his strike partner.

"The senior players at Newcastle have no influence whatsoever on transfers," the England captain said. "We don't have a say on who the manager is, we don't have a say on team selection, we don't have a say on who the manager buys - and rightly so."

Christian Gross, the former Tottenham manager, is set to put himself in the running to succeed Roy Hodgson as manager at Blackburn.

Southampton have called off the signing of Joey Beauchamp from Oxford United after failing to agree personal terms with the midfielder. This follows the collapse of the proposed swap of Carlton Palmer for Barnsley's Darren Barnard.

Steve Bruce, the Sheffield United manager, insisted yesterday that he and his board are in harmony over transfer policy after reports said that he and the directors have been in discord during the recent sale of Gareth Taylor to Manchester City and the possible transfer of Dean Saunders to Benfica.

Bruce confirmed Taylor's pounds 400,000 move took place with his consent and also said that, notwithstanding a bid from Benfica, neither he nor his board want to sell Saunders.

Oleg Blokhin, the former Dynamo Kiev and Soviet Union international midfielder, has taken over as the coach of the Greek club, AEK Athens.

Germany formally entered the race to stage the 2006 World Cup finals yesterday when they handed in their initial bid document to the Fifa president, Sepp Blatter.