Football: Spurs move for Solsjkaer

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The Independent Online
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR have agreed a fee of pounds 5.5m with Manchester United for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The Spurs chairman, Alan Sugar, is hoping to meet the 25-year-old Norwegian international striker over the weekend to discuss personal terms.

The north London club, who have been looking for a replacement for Jurgen Klinsmann after the German left White Hart Lane at the end of last season, stepped up their interest in Solskjaer after United completed their protracted capture of Dwight Yorke from Aston Villa for pounds 12.6m yesterday.

Alex Ferguson initially insisted he wanted to keep all his strikers to maintain a strong squad for United's campaign for the European Cup, but it seems that the United manager has changed his mind. The acquisition of Yorke meant Solskjaer, who scored 17 goals when United won the League in the 1996-97 season, slipped to fifth place among the strikers at Old Trafford, behind Yorke, Andy Cole, Paul Scholes and Teddy Sheringham.

While saying Solskjaer would stay at Old Trafford, Ferguson admitted that "things change throughout the course of a season", and even during the course of 24 hours, it seems. He also added that if players were not happy then that altered things, and that could be a clue to the change of heart at Old Trafford. However, Solskjaer, whose seven-year contract with United does not expire until 2004, had maintained that he was happy at the club, even when he is not in the starting 11.

Now they have permission to talk to the Norwegian, Tottenham, with no European competition to offer a prospective player and the last season's struggle against relegation fresh in their minds must now use powers of persuasion that have failed them in their pursuit of other, high profile targets.

The fall-out from the Yorke transfer continued yesterday with John Barnwell, the chief executive of the League Managers' Association, defending John Gregory, who was upset by losing the striker from his Aston Villa side.

Barnwell said he "cringed" when he read Gregory's comments about wanting to shoot Yorke when he heard he wanted to leave Villa Park. "When I read it I must say I thought it was a slightly extreme statement," Barnwell said. "The manner in which he displayed his feelings left a little bit to be desired.

"Managers are not always the most loquacious people and sometimes do not pick the right words to express themselves. John is an emotional man who wears his heart on his sleeve and I think his statement came straight from his heart. He was just showing his frustration and disappointment at losing a player he had fought so hard to keep."

Arsenal intend to keep Patrick Vieira for a further two years, as the French World Cup player has signed an extension to his contract. Arsene Wenger, Arsenal's French manager, said: "He is staying here until he is 28 and that stability is very important."

Roy Hodgson, however, may have a bit of work to do to persuade two of his strikers that their future lies with Blackburn. Rovers's manager, has a surfeit of strikers, but he has told his unhappy pair, Kevin Gallacher and Martin Dahlin, to grin and bear it. Gallacher and Dahlin have lost their place in the Rovers team after Hodgson's pounds 7.25m acquisition of Kevin Davies from Southampton.

Everton, who have a similar image problem after being caught up with Spurs in the scramble for survival last season, have conceded defeat in their attempt to sign Mario Stanic, the Croatian World Cup defender, from Parma.

Walter Smith, the new manager at Goodison Park, had offered pounds 6.2m to lure Stanic and unite him with Slaven Bilic, who plays alongside him in Croatia's back line. Parma were apparently determined to keep him in Italy.

Abroad is where foreign players should now stay, so Alan Shearer thinks. Speaking ahead of Newcastle's visit to Chelsea today, a game which is likely to feature players from as many as 13 different countries, Shearer expressed concern at the limited opportunities now afforded to English players.

He did not object to world class players coming here, but he said: "The problem you face is when you bring in a lot of foreigners who are of the same ability as English players. I'm sure that will stifle the growth of young players and that could be a problem for the English league in years to come."

The Wales coach, Bobby Gould, has called up the Nottingham Forest midfielder Andy Johnson and the Notts County goalkeeper Darren Ward for the European Championship qualifying match against Italy at Anfield on 5 September.

WALES SQUAD (v Italy, European Championship qualifying Group One, Anfield, 5 Sept): Jones (Southampton), Ward (Notts Co), Savage (Leicester), Barnard (Barnsley), A Williams (Wolves), Symons (Fulham), Coleman (Fulham), Robinson (Charlton), Johnson (Nottm For), Pembridge (Benfica), Hartson (West Ham), M Hughes (Southampton), Blake (Bolton), Saunders (Sheff Utd), Speed (Newcastle), Giggs (Man Utd). Two players to be added later.