World Cup ambitions taking McAteer to Sunderland

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The Independent Football

The Republic of Ireland international Jason McAteer is expected to conclude his protracted move to Sunderland before the end of this week.

Talks are continuing between the Blackburn Rovers midfielder, his agent and the club as the 30-year-old seeks to end his frustration at being kept on the sidelines at Ewood Park. McAteer has made only one start for Rovers this season and the Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy has told him regular first-team football is essential if he is to make the squad for next year's World Cup finals in Japan and South Korea.

McAteer's chances of breaking into the Rovers first team will be restricted further as the wingers Damien Duff and Keith Gillespie are returning to fitness. Both have missed games since suffering injuries to hamstring and knee respectively, but are hoping to be considered for Saturday's difficult trip to Arsenal.

The return of the Irish duo, who were so impressive in the early season games, will give Rovers' manager Graeme Souness a selection poser, particularly given the recent form of his team which put seven past West Ham on Sunday. Souness, relishing the decision, said: "There are very tough decisions to be made, but that's what they pay me for."

Dundee's chief executive Peter Marr has predicted that the signing of Fan Zhiyi will generate even greater commercial spin-offs than Claudio Caniggia's arrival at Dens Park.

The Dark Blues have spent £350,000 to acquire the Chinese international captain from Crystal Palace on a two-and-a-half year deal, but Marr estimates the club can recoup a significant portion of the fee from merchandising.

"We re delighted to bring Fan to the club and there will obviously be certain commercial spin-offs to benefit the club," he said. "It is difficult to tell what the impact will be, but I think it might be even better than the Caniggia deal. There is a huge market in Shanghai, his home town, with a population of between 12 and 15 million.

"There is also a huge internet culture and we hope to exploit these factors as much as possible. There were certain areas of the Caniggia deal we could have handled better but hopefully we can learn from that in this one. We hope to set up a Dundee sales outlet in Shanghai in the near future," Marr added, "and go into partnership with someone in China."

Fan's time at Crystal Palace became strained due to the amount of time he spent away with the international squad. But Marr is confident that the player will put his new club before country. "Fan is back home for a festival in Shanghai to celebrate the Chinese national team making it to the World Cup. He will hopefully make his debut against Hibernian next week subject to getting a work permit.

"We will then negotiate with the Chinese FA so that they realise the importance of him playing for Dundee. Hopefully, he could be excused from some friendly games."

Hull City are close to formalising a deal to share players with the Danish club Lyngby. The Tigers already have an agreement with Sunderland which has led to the highly-rated young striker Michael Reddy moving to Boothferry Park on loan.

Two former Denmark Under-21 internationals, Stefan Schmidt and Mikkel Bo Jensen, are set to have a week-long trial with Hull, and the Third Division are also close to reaching a similar arrangement with Italy's Brescia.

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