Owen returns to full training

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The Independent Football

Michael Owen has returned to full training with Liverpool after his latest hamstring injury. Phil Thompson, standing in as manager in the absence of Gérard Houllier, said the striker has an outside chance of being involved in next Wednesday's Champions' League match in Portugal against Boavista.

"Michael has had his first day's training with the full squad since he was injured," Thompson said. "We had a light session, but it's good to see him back." Liverpool may organise a behind-closed-doors friendly to test Owen's fitness before the trip to Oporto.

Liverpool have also denied claims that Taribo West is about to join the club. The Nigerian, who was on loan with Derby last season, has been reported as telling an African radio station that he is on the verge of joining Liverpool. But Thompson said: "I can assure everyone that Taribo West will not be joining Liverpool or anything like that. Absolutely not."

Birmingham City want an answer from Steve Bruce about becoming their manager over the weekend, or they will turn their attention to Davie Moyes.

They have left the vacancy open for Crystal Palace's Bruce, their first choice, and have not been turned down. Bruce has consulted friends in the game and cannot choose between Palace's potential and even greater apparent possibilities at Birmingham.

The former Manchester United captain is worried that he will be seen as a constant managerial mover if he dumps Palace for an attractive alternative so soon after joining them.

With Bruce dithering, the Blues are making alternative plans. Moyes is next on their list and an official approach may be made on Monday. Although the young Scot could be interested, he has a long contract at Preston and that could mean a hefty compensation fee.

Joe Royle has also been strongly linked with the post and is available and willing to accept the challenge. He may also speak to Birmingham this week.

Simon Jordan, Crystal Palace's chairman, said yesterday: "You'd hope that if there was any approach for my manager that I'd be the first person to know about it. I haven't heard anything. I don't know anything about Steve Bruce spending the weekend considering his future. He'll be spending the weekend considering how to get Crystal Palace to the top of the table."

Arsène Wenger, the Arsenal manager, hinted yesterday that he may offer David Seaman a coaching job when he hangs up his gloves. The club's goalkeeping coach, Bob Wilson, is due to retire at the end of the season, when the 38-year-old Seaman's contract runs out. He will then decide whether to play on.

"I have watched David working with the other goalkeepers and he is a very good teacher," Wenger said. "We might need a bridge between Bob's retirement and the start of David as goalkeeping coach, but to keep him here is definitely something I have in mind. He is an Arsenal man."

Seaman's long-term successor, Richard Wright, said: "David is a very intelligent man. He will be welcomed once he stops his career as a player. He is a good communicator and he commands respect."

The Republic of Ireland international Jason McAteer yesterday completed his £1m move to Sunderland from Blackburn and is eligible to play in Monday's derby at Middlesbrough.

The 30-year-old McAteer had fallen out of favour at Ewood Park, only featuring briefly on Rovers' return to the top flight and manager Graeme Souness agreed to allow him to leave for an undisclosed fee.

Souness denied suggestions that McAteer had moved because of personal differences between the pair – insisting the Irishman was more concerned about his international future with a World Cup next year.

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