Everton close in on Ferguson

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The Independent Online

Duncan Ferguson is likely to make an emotional return to Everton before the start of the season. An Everton source yesterday quoted the chances of Ferguson returning to the Goodison fold as "60-40" after a deal was reached with Newcastle United to pay a fee of around £3.5m for the former Scotland striker.

Duncan Ferguson is likely to make an emotional return to Everton before the start of the season. An Everton source yesterday quoted the chances of Ferguson returning to the Goodison fold as "60-40" after a deal was reached with Newcastle United to pay a fee of around £3.5m for the former Scotland striker.

That sum is less than half the fee the former Newcastle manager Ruud Gullit paid for Ferguson 21 months ago, but the deal would not involve the striker taking a wage cut. Talk of Ferguson earning £2m a year at St James' Park was dismissed as "rubbish" by the source, who revealed that, if Ferguson did return, the Everton wage structure would not be compromised.

Ferguson, who has an Everton crest tattooed on his arm, was sold without manager Walter Smith's approval in November 1998 by the then chairman, Peter Johnson. The furore this caused at Goodison Park led in part to Johnson's resignation.

Last month Smith signed another of his former players, Paul Gascoigne, who played for him at Rangers, for nothing and persuaded him to take a pay cut in the process. "We have been in discussions with Newcastle," Smith said. "We are still talking personal terms. His lack of pre-season football does concern me, but since he is not an Everton player yet that's not an immediate worry."

Although he scored the occasional spectacular goal, such as the volley that sparked Manchester United's only League defeat this year, Ferguson has proved a poor piece of business by Newcastle. On top of the £4.5m loss they are likely to make he was scarcely ever fit. Last season he played less than half the available Premiership matches, scoring just six times.

Steve Howey has completed his £2m move to Manchester City from Newcastle. The defender came through a medical yesterday and agreed terms on a four-year contract with the Premiership new boys. The fee could rise to £3m depending on his number of appearances.

Howey's signing ends a summer-long search by the City manager, Joe Royle, for a centre-back after he failed to prise Ugo Ehiogu from Aston Villa.

City's chief operating officer, Chris Bird, said that the 28-year-old, who has had injury problems in the past, came through his medical with no problems. Bird said: "He's an England international and can still play at the highest level. We're delighted he's signed and he's a quality player."

Crystal Palace have completed the £750,000 signing of Jamie Pollock from Manchester City. The 26-year-old midfielder signed in time to be included in Palace's squad for today's First Division fixture at Blackburn Rovers.

U>direct, the TV pay-per-view broadcaster which this week caused a stir by securing the rights to England's World Cup qualifier in Finland, has secured exclusive rights to show Leeds United's attempt to qualify for the group stage of the Champions' League in the second leg of their final qualifying round game against 1860 Munich on 23 August in Munich.

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