Football: US confirm visit to Wembley: One World Cup defender meets Coventry as another rejects Spurs

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THE United States, goatee beard of Alexi Lalas and all, will provide the first opposition of the new season for England and manager Terry Venables.

The Football Association yesterday confirmed the fixture, at Wembley on 7 September, after long negotiations with the Americans, who reached the second stage at the World Cup with the hirsute central defender Lalas a charismatic figure at the centre of their team.

It will be the USA's first visit to England, but Lalas will be visiting the country long before that date - in fact he flies in today for talks with the Coventry City manager, Phil Neal, with a view to a pounds 300,000 transfer. The goatee could set a new fashion trend in the Premiership - but the Sky Blues face competition from the German club, Bochum, for the 24-year-old centre back's signature.

Mark Draper became the latest passenger on the Premiership summer transfer merry-go-round last night, when he agreed a move from Notts County to the Premiership newcomers, Leicester City. The fee for the 23-year- old midfielder, who is rated at pounds 2.5m by County, is likely to be settled at a transfer tribunal.

Tottenham's round the world chase for new talent found a dead end in the Brazilian, Marcio Santos, who yesterday became the latest World Cup player to reject their overtures. The central defender is now likely to move from Bordeaux to Fiorentina, despite Spurs' pounds 2m offer. 'I know a lot of clubs want me, and at the moment I prefer Fiorentina,' the 24- year-old said.

Ipswich Town's new pounds 250,000 signing, Claus Thomsen, is in danger of missing the start of the season after tearing a groin muscle. The Dane, signed from Aarhus, has already been ruled out of the club's pre-season tour of Finland.

The new Celtic manager, Tommy Burns, yesterday completed the construction of his backroom team at Parkhead, as he surrounded himself with familiar faces. Billy Stark, his assistant at Kilmarnock, has moved to join him in the same capacity. The former manager, David Hay, is the new chief scout, and Pat Bonner, the Republic of Ireland World Cup goalkeeper, takes up coaching duties alongside Tommy Craig.

'In footballing terms, Billy is my other half. He and I share the same thoughts on football,' said Burns.