Football: Platt moves for Sharpe

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DAVID PLATT is due to open talks today to make his first signing - Leeds United's out-of-favour winger Lee Sharpe.

Sharpe has spent a month on the sidelines after being transfer-listed by manager David O'Leary, who made it clear the 27-year-old did not figure in his future plans. But Platt, who took over as Sampdoria's new coaching superviser last week, will look to take Sharpe on loan until the end of the season with a view to a permanent deal.

Blackburn are closing in on Ashley Ward. Rovers have been given permssion by Barnsley to speak to the striker, and the pounds 4.5m deal - which will land Ward a pounds 300,000 payment - should be completed by the weekend.

Blackburn want Ward eligible for the FA Cup tie with Charlton Athletic in the New Year and he would need to sign on Boxing Day in order to be registered in time.

Liverpool's manager, Gerard Houllier, was given a boost in his move for Milan's German goalkeeper Jens Lehmann last night when Borussia Dortmund said he was too expensive at pounds 1.5m.

Aston Villa, resigned to losing Mark Bosnich under the Bosman ruling, have been alerted to the availability of Germany's second-choice keeper.

Thai Football Association officials have denied that the FA paid part of the salary of Thailand's coach, Peter Withe, to bribe them to vote for England's 2006 World Cup bid.

"I confirm that the English FA have never requested any commitment for such assistance," Woravi Makudi, secretary general of the FA of Thailand, said. Reports had suggested that the FA's generosity was an attempt to influence Woravi, Thailand's Fifa representative.

Another Fifa official is thinking of asking North Korea to stage two matches in the 2002 World Cup. Chung Mong Jun, head of the South Korean football association and a Fifa vice-president, said there were plans to field a joint North-South Korea team in the tournament, which is being co-hosted with Japan.

Arsenal's plans to sign the Nigerian international Nwankwo Kanu have had to be put on hold because the Internazionale striker, who was due to arrive on loan for the rest of the season with a view to a pounds 4.5m transfer, is to undergo cartilage surgery.

England have moved up two places in the Fifa world rankings for December to ninth - five places below their end-of- year ranking for 1997. Scotland have slipped two places to 38th

Bruce Grobbelaar has parted company with Lincoln City after two appearances for the Second Division club.

The Zimbabwean international's Sincil Bank career lasted 12 days after signing on a non-contract basis from Ryman League Chesham United. He spent the days between his two games travelling to Zimbabwe for international duty, and the club needs more commitment. Grobbelaar is wanted by Zimbabwe to become assistant coach to Clemens Westerhof.

Newcastle United's Georgian midfielder Temur Ketsbaia has retired from international football. Ketsbaia said his decision was prompted by differences with the coaching staff.

Wolves have agreed terms with Havard Flo, the Norwegian striker who headed his country's goal against Scotland in the World Cup and is available for pounds 750,000 from Werder Bremen.

West Bromwich Albion have moved closer to sharing the Hawthorns with Moseley rugby union club next season after a productive exploratory talks between senior officials.