Keller pleads for time off to stay with US team

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The Independent Online

Tottenham Hotspur's goalkeeper Kasey Keller has asked manager Glenn Hoddle to allow him to play in two games for the United States next month so he can maintain his place as the country's first choice keeper at the World Cup.

Keller wants to travel to the USA and play in friendlies against Honduras on March 2 and Ecuador eight days later. However the North London club want the 32-year-old back immediately after the Honduras game to be cover for Neil Sullivan when they take on Manchester United in the Premiership on 6 March, followed by their FA Cup quarter-final encounter with Chelsea four days later.

"I was given permission from Glenn to go out for the Gold Cup and for the recent friendly in Italy but now I've heard from the US Soccer Federation that I have to come back after the first game against Honduras," Keller said yesterday. That means I will only be out with the US side for a week. Every game that I play for the national team is a positive move towards winning the No 1 spot in the World Cup this summer.

"If I could play these two games I think I would be pretty much there. But now the club are cutting my time short so I can come back and sit on the bench against Manchester United and Chelsea.

Following their Worthington Cup final defeat to Blackburn Rovers on Sunday, Tottenham's most likely path into Europe next season is the FA Cup and Hoddle is unwilling to be without Keller for what is now an even more crucial match against Chelsea.

The United States have been drawn in Group D to face South Korea, Poland and Portugal in the finals in South Korea and Japan this summer.

Bolton Wanderers' much-coveted keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen has delighted fans by signing a new five-year contract with the club in the run-up to their encounter with fellow Premiership strugglers Blackburn Rovers on Saturday.

The Finnish international, a target for several other Premier League clubs, agreed a new deal yesterday after talks between Bolton and his adviser Willie McKay. A £100,000 bargain signing from Finland's VPS Vaasa five years ago, Jaaskelainen will pick up a pay rise worth around £2m over the length of his new contract.

The Bolton striker Paul Wheatcroft has joined Mansfield Town on a month's loan. The Stags have also taken Derby County's England Under-21 midfielder Adam Murray for a similar period.

Fifa and the World Cup co-hosts Japan and South Korea have agreed to allow the sale of beer at stadiums during this year's event, though fans will only be able to buy one cup of beer at a time from 90 minutes before the game begins until the end of half-time.

A press release from the Korean World Cup Organising Committee did not reveal the size of the cup, and committee officials were not immediately available for comment.

Fifa and the World Cup organising committees made the decision during talks in Tokyo yesterday to discuss stadium security at the tournament, which has the American brewers Budweiser as one of its main sponsors. Organisers also will not allow fans to bring beer or any other alcoholic drinks into stadiums, will not sell beer to drunken fans, and reserve the right to ban beer sales entirely.

There was an alcohol ban during the finals in Italy and France and partial restrictions during the tournament in the US in 1994 amid concerns about hooliganism.

The former Arsenal defender Nelson Vivas could miss the World Cup after sustaining knee ligament damage. The Argentinian, now playing in Italy for Internazionale, picked up the injury in training and may be out of action for several months.

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