Blackburn set to beat Fulham in Cole race

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The Independent Football

Blackburn Rovers are close to securing the £8m-plus capture of Andy Cole from Manchester United in time for their attempt to win the Worthington Cup and qualify for Europe.

Their manager, Graeme Souness, confirmed yesterday that he is in negotiations for the England striker, who is available for sale, as revealed by The Independent on Boxing Day.

Souness has admitted his desire to bring Cole to Blackburn quickly, with the extra incentive that he is still eligible for the Worthington Cup and could play in the semi-finals against Sheffield Wednesday.

Souness said: "Anyone who has seen us this season will know that we do not take a good enough percentage of our chances. A poacher can be the difference in a game between a draw and a win.

"I look back to my time at Liverpool when we won the treble in my last season. It was our worst team, but we had someone called Ian Rush who was nicking goals all of the time.''

Souness also said United have made Cole available after earlier enquiries were rebuffed when he was still needed at Sir Alex Ferguson's club.

Blackburn will have to hurry the deal through as Fulham joined the chase yesterday. The final decision will come down to Cole, but sources close to the England striker believe he is in the mood to end his spell with United and take up a new challenge in the build-up to the World Cup finals.

The Juventus centre-back Igor Tudor wants to move to Manchester United, who, according to reports, want to sign him for £15m. The 23-year-old, the Croatian player of the year, said: "It has always been my dream to play over there. I love the English style."

Michael Duberry's future at Leeds United was assured yesterday when the club announced that the centre-back had signed a new five-year contract before Christmas.

Duberry had been linked with a £3m move to Leicester City, but the Leeds chairman, Peter Ridsdale, said: "I am unaware of any interest from Leicester City or any other club in Duberry. Far from trying to sell Michael, I can confirm he actually signed a new five-year contract with Leeds United prior to Christmas."

Duberry testified against his team-mate Jonathan Woodgate, who faced charges of grievous bodily harm with intent and affray in relation to an assault on the student Sarfraz Najeib, and the former Chelsea defender has received death threats after giving his evidence at Hull Crown Court.

The First Division strugglers Grimsby Town have parted company with their manager, Lennie Lawrence. The Mariners have won only once in their last 20 league games to leave them second bottom of the table with 22 points from 26 games.

Lawrence, the former Charlton and Middlesbrough manager, had been in charge at Blundell Park since August 2000. A club statement said: "Grimsby Town Football Club have terminated the contract of Lennie Lawrence with immediate effect. After a disappointing run of results, both parties have agreed that a change may be beneficial to the club."

Grimsby have appointed the senior player Paul Groves as player-manager, while John Cockerill retains his post as assistant. The Mariners narrowly avoided relegation to the Second Division at the end of last season, but began this term in spectacular fashion. They won four of their first six games, beating Crewe, West Bromwich, Barnsley and Coventry in the opening month of the campaign – their best start in 20 years. They also beat Liverpool 2-1 in Worthington Cup in October. However, their taste of glory soon faded as the club embarked on a run of 11 games without a win, and the final straw came with the 1-0 defeat at home to Coventry City on Boxing Day.

Southampton have signed the Rennes winger Fabrice Fernandes for £1.1m. The 22-year-old goes straight in to the Saints' squad for the Premiership match against Leeds United today.

Crystal Palace have completed the signing of the full-back Danny Granville from Manchester City for £500,000.

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