Football: Record chase beckons Arsenal

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The Independent Online
THE Olympics are about to kick off, but the first British record to fall this weekend might be at home with Blackburn Rovers and Arsenal vying to break the domestic transfer record. Alan Shearer spent yesterday considering moving to Ewood Park for a fee guaranteed to eclipse the present mark of pounds 2.9m, while for Geoff Thomas to leave Crystal Palace for Highbury, Arsenal will have to increase their offer to at least pounds 3m.

Arsenal possess the money and motive for another midfielder now that David Rocastle has joined Leeds United, the England player signing for pounds 2m at Elland Road yesterday. Ron Noades, the Crystal Palace chairman, has turned down Arsenal's pounds 2.5m bid for Thomas, forcing the Gunners to raise their sights.

'As far as I'm concerned he's not for sale,' Steve Coppell, the Palace manager, said. 'We didn't give him a new four-year contract last season in order to sell him. We find Arsenal's bid unacceptable.'

Rocastle's tearful move north ends Leeds's interest in Trevor Steven, of Marseille. Howard Wilkinson, the United manager, said: 'I first tried to sign Rocastle at the end of May, but George Graham was not ready to release him. This week, with a little persuasion from me, he agreed to let him go.'

Shearer is taking his time over his transfer. But the prospect of the Southampton striker moving soon increased last night when Ian Branfoot, the Saints manager, said he would talk to David Speedie, the Rovers striker, who may head south to team up with Kerry Dixon at The Dell. 'I hope after speaking to Dave Speedie that we can complete a deal,' Branfoot said. 'I am confident that he and Kerry Dixon will perform as well for Southampton as they did for Chelsea.' Branfoot's efforts to link the pair in a new Saints' strike-force implies that Shearer is on his way.

Manchester United seemed to have turned their attention elsewhere and Alex Ferguson, manager of last season's championship silver medallists, watched Dennis Bergkamp, the Dutch striker, play for Ajax on Wednesday.

The Olympics will still be running when the Charity Shield between Leeds and Liverpool takes place at Wembley on 8 August. The season's traditional pipe- opener will be decided by penalties if the teams are level after 90 minutes, the Football Association said yesterday. Recent draws have led to the Shield being shared.

More trouble for Cambridge United, who had two players sent off in the first game of their 10-day tour of Sweden. Dion Dublin and Chris Leadbitter were dismissed for second bookable offences in the 1-0 defeat at Strangnon. John Beck, the Cambridge manager, was surprised at the sendings-off. 'It was a young referee putting the wrong interpretation on the way we play. It was just good, hard tackling,' Beck said.

Bobby Houghton, who, as manager of Malmo, could advise Beck on Swedish referees, has returned to England, joining Southend United as Colin Murphy's No 2.

Paul Dalton, Plymouth Argyle's pounds 250,000 record signing, has cracked his fibula and may be out of the game for up to two months. The 25-year-old winger, who arrived from Hartlepool last month, was injured in training.

The 27-year-old German international forward, Jurgen Klinsmann, yesterday signed for Monaco from Internazionale in a deal allowing the French First Division side's Liberian striker, George Weah, to move to Paris St Germain.

Olympic football preview, page 31