Woodgate sets sights on February return

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Jonathan Woodgate is hoping to return to action within five weeks, according to his agent. The England centre-back, who is battling to overcome a ruptured tendon as well as his original thigh muscle injury, has yet to make an appearance for Read Madrid following a £13.4m move from Newcastle United in the summer.

Jonathan Woodgate is hoping to return to action within five weeks, according to his agent. The England centre-back, who is battling to overcome a ruptured tendon as well as his original thigh muscle injury, has yet to make an appearance for Read Madrid following a £13.4m move from Newcastle United in the summer.

"He is on his way back," said his agent Simon Bayliff. "When you are out for that amount of time stories grow. But he is confident he will be fit and playing again soon, hopefully by the end of February."

Bayliff also insists there is no pressure on the 25-year-old to start playing again before he is ready. "When you get a repeated injury in the same area it takes a longer time to recover. The club are not throwing caution to the wind. They want to make sure he is absolutely 110 per cent before he comes back."

Blackburn Rovers yesterday gave Barry Ferguson the go-ahead to leave Ewood Park if Rangers double their offer to £6m - but also claimed there is a discrepancy between the two clubs' valuations of the Scotland captain.

Rovers insist they will keep the midfielder if their fee demands are not met. The Glasgow club have had a £3m offer for Ferguson rejected by Blackburn, who bought him from Rangers 18 months ago for £6.5m when Graeme Souness was manager.

The Blackburn chief executive, John Williams, said: "I have had a couple of conversations with Rangers over the last two days. But that was mainly to clarify some details, and they have not made any improved offer. There is still a country mile between us."

The Derby County manager George Burley has denied that Tottenham Hotspur have made a bid for 18-year-old midfielder Tom Huddlestone. Speculation has linked Huddlestone, a product of the youth development system, with a £1m move to White Hart Lane.

One player who may be bound for Tottenham is Excelsior's Moroccan striker Mounir El Hamdaoui. The 20-year-old, who had been linked with a move to Blackburn, trained with Spurs on Monday and was due to play in a friendly last night.

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