McCarthy aiming high with new Republic deal

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Mick McCarthy says he will resign as Republic of Ireland coach at the end of his new contract if he fails to live up to the standards he has set himself.

After the Republic qualified for this summer's World Cup finals in Japan and Korea, there was speculation over whether McCarthy would stay on as coach after the end of the tournament or return to club football.

McCarthy, 43 four days ago, signed a two-year extension to his current contract yesterday, incorporating the 2004 European Championships. But he said that his tenure will end if the Republic side he has nurtured for the last six years do not reach Portugal in two years' time.

Success has been difficult to achieve for McCarthy, World Cup qualification following play-off failures for both France 98 and Euro 2000. But McCarthy knows that time is on his side, and returning to the day-to-day involvement of being a club manager – following his five years with Millwall from 1991-96 – can wait for another two years.

"I just hope we've not peaked and this World Cup will be the pinnacle of it all," McCarthy said before tomorrow's visit by Russia, the first of four friendly matches to prepare his squad for Japan and Korea.

"If we go on to the European Championships and don't qualify then I'm not going to be around, I'm not going to stay. It's as simple as that. I'll go if we don't qualify. The standards have now been set with us qualifying for the World Cup, and if we hadn't done that I wouldn't be here now.

"That would've been my decision and the same applies for the European Championships."

The Blackburn manager, Graeme Souness, has flown in the French midfielder Mario Espartero for talks about a move from Metz. Souness is facing a crisis with his captain, Garry Flitcroft, and Tugay suspended and he could sign the talented 23-year-old on loan for the rest of the season.

Espartero has fallen out with Metz and if Souness is impressed with him this week, a deal could be pushed through quickly. Rangers are also interested in the defensive midfielder.

If Espartero impresses he may even come into contention for the Worthington Cup final because both Flitcroft and Tugay are missing for the game with Tottenham at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, on Sunday week.

Metz gave Espartero permission to take a few days off last week and has not been seen at the club since then.

Manchester City have postponed any decision to sign the twins, Chris and Matt Clarke, from the Third Division's bottom club, Halifax Town. The Leeds-born 21-year-olds were invited to the First Division leaders' Carrington training headquarters last week for a trial. But while continuing to monitor their progress over the coming months, City have decided against recruiting the 6ft 3in striker and defender just yet.

The former England international Stuart Ripley will train with Sheffield United this week as the Blades manager, Neil Warnock, considers a move for the Southampton winger. The 34-year-old has not figured for the Saints since the end of October and has indicated a desire to move north as his playing career nears an end.

A Turkish court on Monday postponed the trial of five Turks charged with stabbing two Leeds United fans to death, after defence lawyers called for a new examination of the crime scene.

The court was told that existing evidence failed to show the exact place where Christopher Loftus and Kevin Speight were stabbed in April 2000, and that police drawings showed the bodies too far apart for the main suspect in the case, Ali Umit Demir, to have stabbed them both.

The striker Ganiyu Owolabi has joined the First Division promotion-chasers Wolves for a week-long trial. The 28-year-old Nigerian-born forward has a Belgian passport following a six-year spell with Antwerp, but has spent the last year playing for Al-Wasl Sport Club in Dubai.

Owolabi joined in a training session yesterday morning, and is expected to play in Wolves' reserve game against Rotherham tomorrow.