Fry cooks up another signing

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The Independent Online
PHIL SHAW

It is a standing joke in football that Barry Fry's dressing-rooms have revolving doors, though a goalkeeping crisis rather than a managerial whim explains Paul Sansome's appearance as the 68th first-teamer of his 25 months in charge of Birmingham in tonight's Coca-Cola Cup quarter-final at Norwich.

Sansome, 34, whose active service this season has been limited to the Springheath Capital League with Southend reserves, joined Birmingham on loan yesterday and goes straight in against Norwich. Ian Bennett, Fry's No 1, has a broken right hand, and his Dutch deputy, Bart Griemink, an ankle injury.

Fry made "dozens of calls" in search of an experienced stand-in. Most of those he tried for were cup-tied or only for sale, but Sansome, who has played almost 500 games for Millwall and Southend, was registered before the midday deadline.

Norwich go into the all-First Division tie without a win under Gary Megson - in either of his spells as manager - while Fry looks to reach his first major semi-final at the age of 50 in what is already Birmingham's 38th match this season.

Aston Villa, who have played 13 fewer, expect a crowd of 39,000 for the derby with Wolves. Brian Little hopes that Paul McGrath is fit to return for Villa to counter Steve Bull and Don Goodman - "two guys who have the potential to wreck it for us". Mark McGhee, without a victory after four matches as Wolves manager, must plan without an equally important defender, Neil Emblen, who sustained a broken collar-bone at Birmingham. However, he saw much in the FA Cup tie to encourage him, notably the form of Bull, whose appointment as captain by McGhee now appears as shrewd as it was surprising.

Reading, who visit Leeds, have also borrowed a goalkeeper, Tranmere's Eric Nixon, who is eligible to play. Leeds, extraordinarily, can call on only Rod Wallace and Phil Masinga of the seven strikers with whom they started the season. Tony Yeboah is away with Ghana and Brian Deane suspended, while Noel Whelan, David White and Jamie Forrester have all been sold.

Lee Chapman, re-signed from Ipswich on loan yesterday, is cup-tied, which means Howard Wilkinson's record buy, Tomas Brolin, might even get a game. The Leeds manager left Brolin out at Derby on Sunday because he felt the "heated atmosphere" of a cup tie would not suit the Swede.

Arsenal, whose run of one win in eight games has prompted Bruce Rioch to tell his chairman the side needs rebuilding, may have David Platt, Steve Bould and Dennis Bergkamp back for Newcastle's visit. The Premiership leaders outclassed the Gunners last week, but remain unconvincing away from home. In their first appearance in the last eight for 20 years, they may be without Robert Lee, who has a sore Achilles tendon.

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