Football: Robson ready to move for Baggio

BRYAN ROBSON has lodged an ambitious bid to bring Dino Baggio to Middlesbrough for next season.

The Middlesbrough manager flew to watch Baggio in action for Parma in their devastating 6-0 victory over Bordeaux in the Uefa Cup on Tuesday and has spoken with his agent about a move. The midfielder, experienced but only 27, has indicated an interest in coming to England for a couple of years. Baggio, who has been linked with English clubs before, will be offered a huge salary. Although he is nearing his sell-by date in the Italian market, Parma will want around pounds 6m for him.

Robson is already setting up a deal for Norwich's Keith O'Neill and harbours hopes of bringing Juninho back from Atletico Madrid. Baggio, however, would give Boro the extra dimension they have lacked as they slip down the table.

The striker Paul Dalglish could yet pass O'Neill on the reverse trip from the north-east, as Newcastle United have received a bid for him from Norwich City, who have already had an approach to sign the 22-year-old Scot on loan turned down. Dalglish, who is rated at pounds 1m by his club, has seen his chances diminish at St James' Park due to the arrivals of Duncan Ferguson and the on-loan Louis Saha, and the form of the Georgian, Temur Ketsbaia.

The former Celtic trainee was signed from Liverpool in November 1997 by his father, Kenny, on a free transfer. He was loaned out to Bury and had to wait until the 5-1 win at Coventry City last September for his debut, as a substitute, for the Magpies.

Phil Don, the Premier League Referees' Officer, has blamed media attention for the growing pressure on the men in the middle.

Match officials have hit the headlines in recent weeks after criticism from players and managers. The ever-increasing profile of the domestic game and the prizes at stake have inevitably heaped responsibility on officials, but Don believes the intense scrutiny of all involved is to blame.

"The media increases the pressure," he said. "Referees will go out there and do their job. Players and managers can only judge a referee's performance subjectively.

"In a sense, Fifa directives have made the referee's job easier. They have mandatory instructions which they have no choice but to apply. But the trouble comes because players aren't adjusting their game.

"Fifa is looking for consistency. There are still times in the game when the referee can use common sense but there are also times when foul tackles go in that he has to apply the mandatory instructions. Managers and players have to accept that, whether it's a first caution or second caution. If the referee is being consistent, then he's not bothered whether it's a first or second bookable offence."

John Rudge, sacked as manager of Port Vale in January after 19 years' service, will have his claim for compensation for the remaining 18 months of his contract heard by a Football League tribunal, following the club's refusal to make him an offer within the statutory 28-day period.

Rudge's case is being handled by the League Managers' Association, whose chief executive, John Barnwell, said: "It's disappointing that it has come to this. It's unnecessary and doesn't do the game's image any good. But it's Vale's prerogative to take it to a hearing."

The League introduced the concept of the three-man arbitration panel, whose decision is binding on both parties, at the start of the season. Despite numerous dismissals in the interim, Port Vale are the first club to be called before it.

The former US national captain, John Harkes, who has been playing for Nottingham Forest, will return to the United States this week and is expected to join New England Revolution next week.

Manchester City hope to sign Alex Mathie from Dundee United. The former Ipswich striker has had a miserable time in Scotland since his pounds 700,000 move from Portman Road.

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