Football: Scales set to follow Babb: Liverpool's pounds 7m swoop

LIVERPOOL moved last night to make their second defensive signing of the day when Wimbledon's John Scales travelled north to discuss a pounds 3.5m transfer just hours after Phil Babb had signed from Coventry City for the same fee, which is a club record.

It is a remarkable double swoop by the Anfield club who have begun the season with three straight wins and it could signal the end of Neil Ruddock's career on Merseyside - on the day he was called into the England squad because of an injury to Arsenal's Steve Bould.

Scales was discussing personal terms last night and the Liverpool manager, Roy Evans, considers a partnership with Babb to be a dream ticket. An alternative would be to play the Republic of Ireland international centre-back at left- back where he began his career at Coventry. Although Ruddock has been a favourite among Anfield fans since his move from Tottenham a year ago it is understood Evans is not entirely happy with him.

Another big-money Wimbledon sale became inevitable once they were denied planning permission to redevelop their former Plough Lane home. Their manager, Joe Kinnear, said: 'I will only be allowed about pounds 500,000 to spend on replacements. We picked up John for pounds 50,000 from Bristol Rovers, but unfortunately those days have gone.'

A day after handing in an official a transfer request at Coventry, Babb signed a four-year contract at Anfield. Evans has had Babb, 23, as his target for three months and saw off opposition from Tottenham Hotspur and Blackburn to finally land his man. 'We've had to be patient but we've said we will go out and buy the best and we're committed to doing that,' he said. 'Phil is quick and had great experience in the World Cup.'

Babb, London-born and once given a free transfer by Millwall as a youngster, aims to follow illustrious Anfield defenders of the past like Alan Hansen and Mark Lawrenson. 'It is a great club and there was no need for them to sell it to me. They've always bought quality players and I feel I'm a quality player, so I look forward to being here a long time.'

The England coach, Terry Venables, has handed a surprise call- up to the Newcastle captain, Barry Venison, after injury robbed him of three players for next Wednesday's friendly with the United States at Wembley.

Venison, 30, who won 10 Under- 21 caps between 1983 and 1986, replaces Manchester United's Paul Ince who has a sore knee. Newcastle's Robert Lee will report for duty, though he is struggling with an ankle problem; Bould has a groin injury. Chelsea's Dennis Wise comes in as cover for the uncapped Lee.

Non-League Notebook, page 34