Football: Villa to rule on stressed striker

JOHN GREGORY, the Aston Villa manager, says a meeting is to be held to make a decision on the future of the club's pounds 7m striker Stan Collymore, who has been undergoing stress counselling. Gregory expects Villa to meet Collymore, and his advisers and his doctors, within the next four weeks.

Collymore is thought to be keen to resume his career with Villa when the Premiership club reports back for pre-season training in July. Gregory said: "We are going to sit down with him and his representatives and doctors and find out if he is 100 per cent fit to continue playing football at the highest level.

"That will be a meeting which I believe will be held within the next month. I have spoken to Stan recently, and his doctors, and he does appear to be making progress."

Earlier this week the Professional Footballers' Association chief executive, Gordon Taylor, asked Villa to adopt a sensitive approach to Collymore's future. The striker's off-the-field problems surfaced back in January. He did manage to return to action for Villa in February and March, when he made three substitute appearances and started three games, but Gregory then called a halt to his season so he could concentrate solely on his treatment.

Charlton Athletic are to offer their manager, Alan Curbishley, a new contract. He is ready to discuss his future at The Valley with the club's board and the chief executive, Richard Murray, is confident that Curbishley will remain with Charlton following their relegation from the Premiership. "We do this every year and this summer will be no exception," Murray said.

"We want Alan to stay and I believe he is very happy at the club and is keen to work hard to help us back up to the Premiership as soon as possible. The bottom line is that, if a manager wants to go, he will go, but we believe Alan wants to stay."

The Derby County manager, Jim Smith, believes Paulo Wanchope's reluctance to sign a new contract means the club will not see the best of him. Smith put Wanchope, Igor Stimac and Dean Sturridge on the transfer list yesterday as he prepares to rebuild his side for next season.

The Costa Rican striker, who said last week that many players - but not him - wanted to leave Pride Park, will be a free agent next summer. He has been stalling on an extension to his present deal, and Smith said: "I've made it clear I want him to sign a new contract. A very attractive offer was made several months ago, but he doesn't seem to want to sign. I still believe in a couple of years' time he will be a special player, but I think he's getting some poor advice from foreign agents promising him this and that.

"I'm very disappointed how this has turned out because I wanted Paulo to stay and I'll be sorry if it ends like this. If I had him on a three- year contract, he might be worth pounds 7m or pounds 8m, but with only 12 months to go, other clubs and Paulo himself are in a strong position."

The decision to let go of Stimac, the club captain, was a surprise, especially as Smith said last month that Derby had begun talks with the Croatian which would see the centre-back spend the rest of his career with the Rams. But Smith said: "He wants a longer contract and more money but he played only 14 Premiership games this season, and that's not a big enough return."

Sturridge was linked with a move away from Derby in January, with Leicester and Sheffield Wednesday were said to be interested in the striker who has been at Derby for his entire career. He has struggled since Christmas 1997, and Smith said: "Dean has been here a long time, and maybe a change for him and a change for us is the right thing, and I want to change the strike force."

Craig Short will sign a new pounds 1.6m contract with Everton, and reject a move to Leicester City. The centre-half agreed to stay at Goodison yesterday on a three-year deal worth pounds 10,000 a week and rising as the manager, Walter Smith, persuaded him to stay. Smith is now clear to sell Marco Materazzi and Slaven Bilic, bringing in around pounds 6m.