Lake retires after 14 operations

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Paul Lake, hailed as the new Duncan Edwards in his teens, finally gave up his five-and-a-half year struggle against injury yesterday and announced his retirement at the age of 27, writes Phil Shaw.

Promised from the age of 10 to his boyhood favourites, Manchester City, Lake became an associate schoolboy at Maine Road in the John Bond era and went on to play a wide range of roles in the 1988/89 promotion season. An Under-21 and B international, he was in the provisional England squad for the 1990 World Cup finals.

Later that year, playing in midfield against Aston Villa, Lake's right knee twisted and his cruciate ligaments shattered. He broke down again at Middlesbrough when attempting a comeback two years later but, after surgery in America, in which he received Achilles tendons from dead men, he resumed his career at youth level last spring.

The pain and swelling kept recurring, however, and after 14 operations Lake has finally conceded defeat. He will now go into physiotherapy. "I've tried hard to get my fitness back, but it wasn't to be," he said.

Terry Venables will launch his team's European Championship preparations with two training sessions in the next six weeks. The England coach, without a fixture until Bulgaria play at Wembley on 27 March, will ask between 20 and 22 players to gather at Bisham Abbey from 22 to 25 January. Players from West Ham and Manchester United, who meet on 22 January, may arrive the following day. His second get-together will be at Aston Villa's training ground on 12 to 15 February.

Arsenal have denied a report that their Dutch international striker, Dennis Bergkamp, is a pounds 9m transfer target for one of his former clubs, Ajax. The Highbury managing director, Ken Friar, said: "It is nonsense. There has been no contact from Ajax or anybody else, as far as I know."

The former Arsenal and Republic of Ireland striker, Frank Stapleton, has landed a top coaching job in America's new Major Soccer League. Stapleton is to be head coach of New England Revolution, one of 10 teams in the new league which kicks off in April.