Laegue of nations spreads Nationwide

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The Independent Online
Bradford City 1 Tranmere Rovers 0

Mention English football's "foreign legion" and thoughts turn first to the Premiership, the names that trip off the tongue belonging to extravagantly- paid stars who need little introduction.

But there is, too, a growing band of legionnaires outside the elite, bringing colour and a Continental flavour even to the parts where the game's new wealth does not yet reach - proof, perhaps, that the lure of playing in the English leagues is not only a matter of bulging bank balances.

The First Division of the Nationwide League may be only one level below the Premiership but the world familiar to most of its participants is far removed from the one to which Gianluca Vialli, Fabrizio Ravanelli and company were drawn.

And yet, amid considerably less publicity, 13 First Division clubs bought overseas during the summer, Bradford City among them.

City's double coup was to hire two Dutchmen on free transfers, recruiting a striker, Erik Regtop, from Heerenveen, and a defender, Marco Sas, from NAC Breda, both of whom made their presence noticeable on Saturday, the latter in particular.

A former under-21 international, Sas took advantage of the Bosman ruling in making his fee-free move. "I really think he would have cost pounds 1m if he had not been out of contract," Bradford's manager, Chris Kamara, said. "He has real quality. I can tell you now that you will not find a better passer of the ball in the whole division.''

Kamara, it seems, had little difficulty persuading either to join Bradford, despite the club's modest recent past. "Getting promotion through the play-offs was important, but they were keen to come," Kamara said. Both were recommended by Romeo Zondervan, the former West Bromwich and Ipswich player.

Until Lee Duxbury cashed in on slack marking to head the only goal 17 minutes from time, the Dutch pair provided Bradford's best moments on Saturday, Regtop forcing a brilliant first-half save from Tranmere goalkeeper, Danny Coyne, who did well in the second period to push a Sas drive from 30 yards around his right-hand post.

Tranmere, suffering their first defeat in 11 matches since John Aldridge became player-manager in April, looked more fluent initially, despite the absence of several injured players, but created no chance better than the one set up for Aldridge midway through the first half by 18-year-old Alan Mahon, to which on-loan goalkeeper Ben Roberts, from Middlesbrough, responded with a crucial save.

Goal: Duxbury (73) 1-0.

Bradford City (4-4-2): Roberts; Liburd, Mohan, Sas, Jacobs; Hamilton, Cowans, Duxbury, Kiwomya (Wright, 67); Regtop (Shutt, 67), Stallard. Substitute not used: Ormondroyd.

Tranmere Rovers (4-1-2-3): Coyne; Stevens (Thomas, 57), Higgins, Teale, Brannan; Cook; Irons, Mahon; Morrissey (Nevin, 30), Aldridge, Branch. Substitute not used: Jones.

Referee: R Pearson (Peterlee).

Bookings: Tranmere: Cook, Thomas.

Man of the match: Sas.

Attendance: 10,080.