Football: Uefa ban Ince for three games

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The Independent Online
PAUL INCE was handed another three-match ban by the European football union yesterday for his sending-off during Liverpool's Uefa Cup second- round victory over Valencia.

Last month Ince was banned by Uefa for three international matches after being sent off playing for England against Sweden in a Euro 2000 qualifier. The latest suspension, for violent conduct, rules him out of Liverpool's Uefa Cup campaign at least until March. Uefa handed a two-match ban to his Liverpool team-mate Steve McManaman, who was also sent off during the 3 November match.

Gerard Houllier has accepted that he could lose McManaman but the Liverpool manager will not let him go without a fight.

A new contract for McManaman, who misses today's game with Leeds because of an Achilles injury, will be one of the first tasks for the Frenchman following Roy Evans' emotional departure on Thursday. But with Real Madrid having declared their interest after the Uefa Cup game in Valencia, time is against Houllier.

McManaman cannot officially talk to clubs until 1 January, but his advisers can discuss his future with any interested parties. Houllier knows there is little Liverpool can do to stop McManaman leaving if he wants to. A four-year contract, with a one-year option, is believed to be on the table, and Houllier said: "Steve has never hidden the fact that he wanted at one stage of his career to go abroad, and if he finds the opportunity this season, I will feel sorry for the club and I will regret it because I would like him to stay."

Houllier and his new assistant, Phil Thompson, will be missing several top players for their first game together against Leeds, including Michael Owen, who has a hamstring problem. Steve Staunton and Phil Babb are available after world football's governing body, Fifa, ruled that the Republic of Ireland players did not have to miss the game ahead of Wednesday's international against Yugoslavia. However, last night, Fifa urged the Football Association to encourage teams to release their players after all.

Tim Flowers will be out of Blackburn's goal for the next two months after a freak training ground accident and may need an operation to repair tendons in his shoulder.