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Football: Sutton is pounds 11m target for Villa

By Alan Nixon

ASTON VILLA are reportedly trying to sign Chris Sutton from Blackburn Rovers for pounds 11m to spearhead their unexpectedly strong challenge in the Premiership this season.

John Gregory, Villa's manager, still has available the pounds 12.6m the club received from Manchester United for Dwight Yorke and sees Sutton as an ideal replacement.

His opposite number at Rovers, Roy Hodgson, will not be happy with another transfer move distracting his side, who have not followed through on their promising finish to last season. He has already complained about Tottenham's interest in Tim Sherwood unsettling the midfielder. In addition, Hodgson has had to contend with injuries to his strikers which led to him playing Jason Wilcox up front alone in the Uefa Cup against Lyons.

The head of Italy's footballers' union, Sergio Campana, has called for a six-month strike to protest against the handling of the doping scandal that has engulfed Serie A. Campana said the inquiry into the use of banned substances in Italy's first division had violated players' rights to privacy. But he added: "If the inquiry shows that players voluntarily broke anti- doping regulations then they should be punished for ruining the game's image."

The inquiry began this summer when the Roma coach, Zdenek Zeman, suggested two Juventus players had used illegal substances. Anti-doping investigators at the Italian Olympic Committee have also opened an inquiry.

Italian players went on strike once before, in March 1996, over working conditions.

David Lloyd, Hull City's owner, said yesterday that he will close the Third Division club unless a buyer comes forward. Lloyd, who put the club up for sale on Saturday, is prepared to write off the pounds 4m he has put in. He said: "I am going. I will not put the club into receivership or administration. I don't have to do that because it is my money, my debt."

Nottingham Forest have offered Bolton pounds 3m for Nathan Blake in an attempt to head off Wimbledon, who have made a similar bid.

Nigel Clough has left Manchester City after the club agreed to pay up the nine remaining months of his contract. Clough, who has not played first-team football for City since the end of the 1996-97 season, had been on about pounds 250,000 a year since signing for pounds 1m in January 1996. His 38 first-team appearances have cost pounds 40,000 per game.