Football: Smith dismissed by West Bromwich

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WEST BROMWICH Albion yesterday sacked their manager, Denis Smith, 10 days before the start of the new season, blaming the side's poor performance last season when they finished 12th in the First Division.

"The board recognises that the team's performance on the pitch must improve," the West Brom chairman, Tony Hale, said. "We have decided that a new manager must be appointed."

John Gorman, former assistant to England manager Glenn Hoddle, who joined the club last week as Smith's assistant, was put in joint charge of the team with the reserve team coach, Cyrille Regis.

Quinton Fortune, a powerful South African midfielder, hopes to sign for Manchester United. He plays a closed-door trial for United tomorrow, hoping to convince the club's manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, that he is worth a pounds 1.5m fee and a hefty contract.

With United forging links with a feeder club in Cape Town, Fortune, who played for Atletico Madrid last season, would also be a useful ambassador and asset. He played for South Africa in the World Cup last summer, and has a big following in Johannesburg and Cape Town. He will choose between United and Spain's Valladolid, but he is thought to prefer United.

As a 13-year-old, Fortune went to Tottenham under the guidance of Terry Venables, but when Venables fell out with Alan Sugar, Fortune went back to South Africa.

Michael Owen, who has been out of action since April because of a persistent hamstring injury, has been added to the Liverpool party for the match against Valerenga tomorrow. Owen will also continue his intensive treatment on the injury.

The Liverpool manager, Gerard Houllier, has moved swiftly to confirm Dominic Matteo's future at the club after claims that Celtic wanted to buy the defender for around pounds 5m.

Houllier said: "I have had no contact with Celtic... Matteo is not for sale and the player does not want to leave."

Sheffield Wednesday yesterday placed a pounds 4.5m valuation on Emerson Thome, their Brazilian centre-back, in an effort to scare off Blackburn Rovers.

Bradford City will listen to offers for Robbie Blake, who scored 17 goals in helping the club reach the Premiership last season, after he refused a five-year deal following protracted negotiations.

Kasey Keller, the American goalkeepr who left Leicester City under the Bosman ruling, has signed for the newly promoted Spanish club Rayo Vallecano on a two-year contract.

Everton will not be signing the Danish trialist Ronnie Ekelund following a pre-season game against Preston.

Sheffield United have signed the Belgian midfielder Axel Smeets, with the 25-year-old free agent agreeing a one-year deal. The former Under- 21 international has played for Standard Liege and the Spanish side Salamanca.

Robbie Elliott, a pounds 2.5m buy from Newcastle in July 1997, has joined Per Frandsen and Mark Fish on the Bolton transfer list.

The Scottish Premier League will expand to 12 clubs in 2000-2001 and copy some foreign leagues in splitting, post-season, into two groups of six teams to determine the league title, European places and relegation. Under the new format, after 33 games the division will divide and the teams in each section will retain their existing points then play each other once to complete a 38-game campaign.

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