Football: Problems mount for Atkinson

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The Independent Online
NO SOONER has Ron Atkinson begun the struggle to keep Nottingham Forest in the Premiership than the problems begin to pile up for him.

The long-serving Forest goalkeeper Mark Crossley, frustrated by his lack of first-team opportunities in the past 18 months, gave Atkinson an ultimatum yesterday. The 29-year-old has been unable to dislodge Dave Beasant from the side and has warned that, if he does not figure in the Premiership soon, he will ask to leave.

"I've got 18 months left on my contract," Crossley said. "At my age, it's no use playing reserve-team football."

Another problem for Atkinson is the doubt cast over his pounds 1m bid for Carlton Palmer because of a wages wrangle. The Southampton midfielder has been lined up as the new manager's first signing, but the player and Forest have so far been unable to strike a deal.

"I can understand Forest's position, in a way," Palmer said. "They seem to be caught between two stools - between really going for it to avoid relegation and budgeting for next year in case they do go down. But I'm certainly not holding them to ransom."

Juninho has ruled out the possibility of an immediate move to Aston Villa. The Brazilian international has been linked with a pounds 12m move back to England, with Villa Park rated as the likely destination. However, the former Middlesbrough man has decided to try to establish himself in Spain, even though his career has not flourished since his move to Atletico Madrid in July 1997.

"It is very difficult when you are not in the team," Juninho said. "But I would prefer to fight and work and get back into the team and be a success in Spain rather than look for a move elsewhere."

Leeds have taken the Slovenian defender Aleksander Knavs on a week's trial from the Austrian club, Tirol Innsbruck. However, the 6ft 3in 23- year-old may have played insufficient internationals for his country to earn a work permit.

Wolves have completed the signing of the Norwegian World Cup striker Haavard Flo from the German Bundesliga club, Werder Bremen, for around pounds 750,000.

The Everton manager, Walter Smith, is offering Graham Stuart a chance to return to Goodison Park. Smith is trying to sign the Sheffield United forward in exchange for the centre-half Craig Short, who is a surplus to requirements.

Gordon Taylor, the Professional Footballers' Association chief executive, was last night deciding whether to return to the Football Task Force - despite the fact that he has not been invited back by its chairman, David Mellor.

Taylor resigned last week after criticising Mellor for remarks the former Tory MP had made about players and the PFA. "Certain individuals on the Task Force have asked me to think about [returning]. I've appreciated them and given it some consideration, together with my colleagues at the PFA."

Rangers will play a practice match against the United States national team at their winter training camp in Orlando, Florida, today. They will then meet the Brazilian side, Atletico Mineiro, on Sunday at the Orange Bowl in Miami.

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