Lama comes out of retirement to ease Birmingham's goalkeeping crisis

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The Independent Football

The French veteran goalkeeper Bernard Lama has said "yes" to an unexpected call from Birmingham City and will sign for Steve Bruce's club for the rest of the season.

The 39-year-old, who competed with Fabien Barthez for years to be his country's No 1, has been coaching with the French Federation after retiring from playing last season. However Bruce, working with top agent Willie McKay, talked Lama into joining the Blues as an emergency signing after Nico Vaesen's knee injury.

Lama, who was with West Ham a few years ago, will arrive today for training and should be able to agree a contract for the next three months. He is allowed to sign outside the transfer window periods because he is not attached to a team.

Birmingham were left looking for an out-of-work goalkeeper as the Premiership would not give them special dispensation to take one on loan. Ian Bennett is due to take over from Vaesen but he is the only experienced option Bruce has available as his club fights relegation.

Another keeper, Newcastle's Steve Harper, who played in the first-phase Champions' League wins over Juventus and Dynamo Kiev, was put on stand-by last night for a return after Shay Given dislocated a finger in training. The 27-year-old waits as Sir Bobby Robson's first choice attempts to prove his fitness for tomorrow's visit to Internazionale.

If Given does not make it Harper will step in, while the youngster Adam Bartlett – named in the senior squad for the first time, with the Dutchman John Karelse due to undergo knee surgery – would then be asked to provide back-up on the bench.