Football: Taylor's fear on foreign legion

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The Independent Online
BLACKBURN ROVERS may have re-established their Premier League championship credentials yesterday with the confirmation of the signing of the Norway full- back, Henning Berg, 22, for pounds 400,000 from Lillestrom.

Berg joins Sweden's midfielder, Patrik Andersson, a 21-year-old who cost pounds 800,000 from Malmo and can also play in defence, at Ewood Park, the pair perhaps filling two of the positions where Rovers were thought to be vulnerable at the season's start.

Berg and Andersson will both now be available for the visit of fourth-placed Rovers to seventh-placed Manchester City tomorrow as Kenny Dalglish will be making reassessments after Tuesday's 5-2 home crash defeat to Coventry.

Berg's arrival will ring another alarm bell in the Professional Footballers' Association offices of Gordon Taylor. Berg brings the total of current Norwegian internationals serving the League to eight. The others are Erik Thorstvedt (Spurs), Stig Inge Bjornebye (Liverpol), Gunnar Halle (Oldham), Erland Johnsen (Chelsea), Pal Lydersen (Arsenal), Kare Ingebrigsten (Manchester City) and Frank Strandli (Leeds), who is still awaiting a work permit on his pounds 350,000 move from IK Start.

Add the Swedes Andersson (Blackburn), Anders Limpar (Arsenal) and Roland Nilsson (Sheffield Wednesday), the Danes Peter Schmeichel (Manchester United) and John Jensen (Arsenal), Torben Piechnik and Jan Molby (Liverpool) and you can see why press box seats are being taken over by Scandinavians.

'Of course we are concerned,' Taylor said yesterday. 'Some pounds 5-6m that might have gone to lower-division clubs has gone out of the game. All this is happening at a time when Hartlepool, who could once sell Don Hutchison, have had to go to court to stay alive. We are disappointed some English clubs, who used to invest in rough diamonds from lower divisions, are now spending on ready-made internationals from abroad.

'Do they fulfil the criteria? Are they players better than those available in the EC? And what is happening to our youth system and the millions the FA are investing in centres of excellence?'

The FA and League clubs have responded vigorously to criticism in the Consumers' Association magazine Check it Out alleging that supporters were being charged as much as pounds 30 to watch a match. Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham and Leeds were clubs mentioned. The FA replied by referring to the money clubs were spending on family enclosures and Spurs retorted that their junior members could watch for as little as pounds 5 having paid a pounds 6 annual subscription.

Sepp Blatter, the Fifa general secretary, who on Wednesday suggested kick-ins replace throw-ins after the 1994 World Cup finals, called yesterday for linesmen to be more involved in helping referees to control matches by running the length of the pitch, possibly keeping time, marking the distance for free-kicks and coming closer to the action, ie on to the field, to signal fouls. He also said a knowledge of English would become obligatory for referees.

Doctors have told the Leeds midfielder, Steve Hodge, who has been suffering from myalgic encephalomyelitis, that he can continue his playing career. Gary Flitcroft, the versatile Manchester City player, has been given a new three-and-a-half year contract.

Justin Fashanu, Torquay's striker and assistant manager, has left the Third Division side. 'I cannot go along with some of the things happening at the club,' he said.

Keith Elliott, page 30