Football; Teesside welcome for Juninho

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The Independent Online

After a 14-hour three-legged trip from Sao Paulo, Juninho eventually landed at Teesside airport yesterday to be greeted by supporters decked out in Brazilian shirts and waving banners written in his native Portuguese. It was a welcome that not even this 22-year-old could have expected.

Obviously enjoying the excitement his signing has generated, the beaming Juninho asked: "What's all the fuss about. Has someone stolen the Crown Jewels?"

Juninho touched down in Teesside at 11am yesterday, having flown by private jet from Heathrow accompanied by his father. In a message to the Middlesbrough fans, he said: "I cannot wait to start playing. I'll do my best and hopefully help the team to win the Premiership."

The Brazilian international then climbed into a club Jaguar and was driven to Middlesbrough to undergo a medical. The club are hoping Juninho's work permit comes through next week, allowing him to make his debut against his manager Bryan Robson's old club, Manchester United, at Old Trafford on Saturday week.

Supporters eager to watch Juninho continued to queue in their hundreds yesterday, trying to snap up the last of the 21,500 season tickets for the stadium which has a 30,000 capacity.

Manchester City have taken the 24-year-old Celtic defender, Mark McNally, on trial while, at another struggling club, Steve Wicks has been sacked at Lincoln City - after only 41 days in charge - to make way for John Beck to take over as the manager at Sincil Bank.

David Kohler, the Luton chairman and managing director, has put the First Division club up for sale. The asking price is believed to be pounds 3m.

Wetherall's progress, page 27