Van der Sar to extend Fulham deal

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The Independent Online

Chris Coleman, the Fulham manager, expects his goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar to commit himself to the club within the next 24 hours. The Dutch international, whose current deal expires at the end of the season, is expected to extend his stay at Craven Cottage by another year and will be on duty tonight as Coleman's side play Watford in their FA Cup third-round replay.

Chris Coleman, the Fulham manager, expects his goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar to commit himself to the club within the next 24 hours. The Dutch international, whose current deal expires at the end of the season, is expected to extend his stay at Craven Cottage by another year and will be on duty tonight as Coleman's side play Watford in their FA Cup third-round replay.

"There's just a few details to be ironed out but it should be completed either later today [Tuesday] or tomorrow," Coleman, who also expects to wrap up the signing of the Manchester City full-back Ben Thatcher by the end of the week, said yesterday.

A catalogue of injuries has robbed Fulham of experience at the back and Coleman hopes Thatcher's arrival will shore-up his side's leaky defence. "Ben's wife has not settled in Manchester and she wants to come back to London," Coleman said. "We're interested in signing an experienced defender and he would give us that edge we haven't got.

"At the moment we have Carlos Bocanegra at left-back. He's been playing there for 18 months and did not have a rest in the summer. We bought him as a centre back and he's done a good job at left-back. But if he gets injured we have young Adam Green as cover, but he's too inexperienced to be given a run of games, while Jerome Bonnissel is injured."

Andy Cole returns against Watford after completing a one-match suspension. The midfielder Steed Malbranque sustained an ankle injury in the 1-0 victory over West Bromwich on Sunday, however, and will be out of action for three weeks.

Claus Jensen and Alain Goma are continuing their comebacks in the reserves but are not yet ready for the first team. Coleman promised to play his strongest side against Watford as he looks to improve on last season, when they reached the sixth round.

Coleman's counterpart at Watford, Ray Lewington, has warned Premiership clubs it would take "something spectacular" to prise the striker Heidar Helguson away from Vicarage Road. The Icelander has scored 16 goals this season and has been linked with moves to Charlton and Crystal Palace. But Lewington is determined to keep the 27-year-old.

"I do not want to lose Heidar and we do not have to," Lewington said. "He has done fantastically well this season, and there is no reason for us to sell him. The board have told me that I will make the decision about Heidar. It would take a very, very good offer - something spectacular - for me to consider selling."

Helguson is in excellent form having scored the equaliser from the penalty spot to ensure the first match against Fulham ended 1-1 and struck twice in Watford's 3-1 League win over Crewe at the weekend.

Watford will also take confidence from their fine performance in the 1-0 defeat to Liverpool at Anfield in the first leg of the Carling Cup semi-final.

Lewington is likely to make one change with 40-year-old Alec Chamberlain replacing the on-loan Paul Jones in goal. Jones' club, Wolves, do not want to risk him becoming Cup-tied - but with first-choice keeper Richard Lee still injured, Lewington wants to extend the 37-year-old's loan by another month.

The centre-back Sean Dyche is out with a groin injury, while on-loan Tottenham midfielder Johnnie Jackson is ineligible.

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