Elton John intervenes on Bangura's behalf

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Elton John is backing the appeal by Watford midfielder Al Bangura against the decision to deport him to Sierra Leone. The singer, formerly chairman of Watford and now the club's honorary life president, has written to the Sports Minister, Gerry Sutcliffe, to express his support for the 19-year-old, who heard this week that he had lost his case at the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal.

Bangura, whose girlfriend had a son a fortnight ago, insists that he will be killed if he has to return to the country he left four years ago when he was threatened with death after refusing to join a secret society which had been led by his father, who was murdered during the civil war.

"I am just praying every night that the Home Secretary will review this and allow me to stay because, inside of me, I know I'm supposed to be here," Bangura said. "I would love to be a citizen here. If I was given the chance to be British, I would take it with both hands."

Watford will show its solidarity at today's home game against Plymouth. Players will wear t-shirts with Bangura's picture on the front and "Save Al Bangura" on the back, while 7,000 pictures of him will be distributed. Bangura will appear at half-time alongside local MP Claire Ward, who has received a letter from former Home Secretary David Blunkett questioning the deportation.

"I am at a loss to understand why [he is being deported]," Blunkett wrote, "given the circumstances of Bangura's presence in the country. He is a valued member of the community."

The Watford chairman, Graham Simpson, has written to the Prime Minister on his player's behalf.