Keegan's challenge to strikers

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The Independent Online
Kevin Keegan, the Newcastle United manager, is tipping his forward partnership of Andy Cole and Paul Kitson to become the best and most feared strike force in Britain.

The pair have failed to gel since Kitson joined Cole in a £2m move from Derby, as Newcastle's bright start to the campaign has fizzled out. But Keegan reckons Kitson and £1.75m bargain-buy Cole can soon match the more expensive partnership of Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton that has so far yielded 36 goals for Blackburn.

"I have challenged them to become the best strike partnership in the Premiership," Keegan said. "That is what they are capable of becoming. They are quality players, but they must begin to become a partnership.

"Their movement together was poor at Coventry, but they need time together because they can become as good as Shearer and Sutton."

Stan Collymore, the Nottingham Forest striker, has pledged his international future to England following reports that Jack Charlton is trying to recruit him for the Republic of Ireland. Charlton was alerted to Collymore by reports that he had an Irish grandmother.

However, Collymore has no Irish relatives that he is aware of, and said: "My aim remains to try to break into an England squad, whether at full or B level. The interest from the Republic is very flattering, but my ambition has always been to play for England and that still applies."

The news will come as a boost to Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United manager, who is believed to be interested in Collymore. By committing himself to the Republic, Collymore would have become a "foreigner", which could have ruled out a move to Old Trafford.

Sunderland have agreed to release the midfielder Gary Owers and pay a cash adjustment in an attempt to take the Bristol City defender Martin Scott to Roker Park.

Owers, 27, travelled to Ashton Gate yesterday to meet the City manager, Joe Jordan, while the full-back Scott, 26, will make the opposite journey to the North-east today.

Sunderland were reported to have had a £500,000 bid for Scott - who was signed from Rotherham for £200,000 four years ago - turned down by Bristol during the summer.

Malaysian police have arrested a bookmaker and two more football players in their continued crackdown on corruption in the country's year-old professional league.

Bernama, the Malaysian national news agency, has revealed that a 40-year-old bookmaker has been detained, while the two players surrendered themselves to police yesterday.

The arrests bring the number of players detained by Malaysian authorities to 26, and the police have said they are planning more arrests in their probe into widespread corruption in the league.

The bribery scandal in Malaysia and Singapore came to light after anti-corruption officials arrested the Czech striker, Michael Vana, and a Singaporean referee in August on charges of fixing six matches.

The arrests have caused a headache for the Malaysian Football Association, which is now finding it difficult to field a strong team for a regional tournament in Bangladesh next month.

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