Football: Villa close on pounds 7.5m Collymore

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The Independent Online
Aston Villa are expected to shatter their transfer record by signing Stan Collymore, who supported the club from the Holte End terraces as a boy, from Liverpool in a pounds 7.5m deal today.

Brian Little, the Villa manager, was not on board the plane which took his squad to California for two end-of-season matches yesterday. He is believed to have stayed behind to discuss personal terms with Collymore's agent, Paul Stretford, and is likely to meet the 26-year-old striker this morning in an attempt to finalise his move.

Little, seeking to find a more potent partner for Dwight Yorke than Savo Milosevic, first showed an interest in Collymore last autumn, but was not prepared to go beyond pounds 6m. Liverpool wanted to recoup more of the then British-record pounds 8.5m they paid Nottingham Forest for Collymore in the summer of 1995, but any transfer was stillborn after Villa failed to offload the Milosevic to Perugia.

Since then, Little has raised pounds 2.3m from the sale of Tommy Johnson to Celtic, while Villa's share flotation brought in an estimated pounds 10m. Milosevic and Villa's record buy, the pounds 4.2m Sasa Curcic, are expected to fetch up to pounds 7m during the close season. Villa are therefore well placed to make the Staffordshire-based Collymore the first of the recruits Little hopes will transform them from a top-five team into champions.

Collymore's chequered career began with ill-starred spells at Wolves and Walsall. Crystal Palace launched him into League football by buying him from Stafford Rangers. After a stint at Southend he joined Forest four years ago, going on to win two England caps before leaving for Liverpool.

During a patchy sojourn on Merseyside, blighted by absences from training and criticism of the club in interviews, he scored 35 goals. Sixteen of them came in the season which finished on Sunday, when Collymore's lacklustre display at Sheffield Wednesday was curtailed by his replacement by John Barnes for the second half.

Blackburn Rovers are hoping to bring over Ciriaco Sforza from Internazionale to link up again with the English coach, Roy Hodgson, who will be making the same switch this summer. It could cost Rovers pounds 3m for the Swiss midfielder, who Hodgson groomed for the Swiss national side when he was their coach, before taking him to Italy.

Paul Ince has apparently been offered an improved two-year contract by Inter's president, Massimo Moratti, in a bid to keep him in Italy.

Graham Taylor is back, almost, to square one. The former England manager, who has been working as general manager at Watford, has assumed control of team affairs at Vicarage Road, where he was manager from 1977 to 1987. Taylor will also continue as general manager, with Kenny Jackett reverting from team manager to first-team coach.

Matthew Le Tissier has agreed to extend his 11-year career with Southampton, following the club's Premiership survival at the weekend. "I'll still be here next season," he said.

If, as he expects, the Leeds manger, George Graham, completes the signing of the Rangers defender David Robertson, the fee for the 28-year- old Scottish international is likely to be decided by the home international tribunal. The Scottish champions want around pounds 1.5m for Robertson, but Leeds are believed to willing to offer only pounds 500,000.

Arsenal have signed a pounds 250,000 deal with a local school to help develop future Highbury players. A selection of promising 14-year-old footballers will join the local comprehensive and train with Arsenal in their spare time.

Alex Ferguson was named as the Carling Manager of the Year yesterday, after leading Manchester United to their fourth Premiership title in five years. Barnsley's Danny Wilson was the choice as the League Managers' Association's manager of the year.

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