Allardyce moves to bolster squad

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The Independent Football

The Bolton Wanderers' manager, Sam Allardyce, flew in the African centre-half Kodjo Afanou yesterday as the first of up to six players who could be heading to the Reebok Stadium during the transfer window.

The 26-year-old Togo-born defender is expected to sign for the rest of the season and could even figure in the Calring Cup semi-final against Aston Villa on 27 January. Afanou spent eight seasons at Bordeaux in the French First Division and had just returned from a brief spell at a club in the Middle East before bargain-hunting Bolton came along.

Allardyce explained that he picked up Afanou after a trip around Europe trawling for available players. "Afanou had a bad experience at the club he joined but his pedigree is excellent," he said.

Allardyce has also tried, and failed, to sign Liverpool's Djimi Traoré and Nice's Philippe Léonard and is still waiting on a possible deal to bring Michael Gray from Sunderland on loan.

Allardyce could bring in another two or three players after admitting that Mario Jardel may be offloaded to make space for any new additions. "Espanyol have made an offer for Mario, but it is not right for us," he said. "We have also heard that Murcia are interested. If the move suits us we will put it to the player."

The heat of the transfer market leaves Allardyce wishing he could take some time off to devote to other parts of the business. "I do not like the transfer window, it comes at a time when you should be with the players. I would be all for a winter break."

Bolton face Portsmouth today without the Nigeria midfielder Jay-Jay Okocha, who is taking part in the African Nations Cup, while the visitors can field his international team-mate Yakubu Aiyegbeni. The anomaly arises because the world governing body, Fifa, rules that players have to be released by their clubs 14 days before the start of a major tournament, but their arrival date is negotiable between the player and the national federation.

The African Nations Cup kicks off in Tunisia on 24 January, so most players would have been able to leave their clubs after fulfilling their League fixtures on 10 January.

Okocha is the Bolton captain and a key member of Allardyce's team, while the Portsmouth manager, Harry Redknapp, has been keen to hang on to the prolific striker Yakubu because of a lengthening injury list.

Fifa says there is nothing wrong with Okocha leaving to play in Africa and Aiyegbeni staying at Portsmouth. But it would be against Fifa rules if a club held on to a player against his will within the 14-day period.

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