Old Trafford to play host to England

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The Independent Online
There will be more than a touch of novelty about it when England play South Africa on 24 May. Not only will it be the first football match between the two nations, but also the match will be staged at Old Trafford.

The game against the African champions, being used by Glenn Hoddle as a World Cup warm-up for the trip to Poland the following week, cannot be played at Wembley because of the newly-designated national stadium's play-off commitments.

"We're delighted to be playing South Africa and it will be a historic match," the England coach said yesterday. "They are a growing nation and are getting stronger and stronger as a footballing power."

The Football Association yesterday expressed surprise at news that Russia is apparently interested in making a bid to stage the 2006 World Cup. The president of Russia's football union, Dr Viacheslav Koloskov, is a member of the Uefa executive, which is said to have decided to support Germany as the only bidder from Europe.

The FA's chief executive, Graham Kelly, said he did not know that Russia had made a bid, but Koloskov denied the reports, saying yesterday that Russia had no chance of building the stadiums needed to stage the event.

Ruud Gullit will be in plaster for a month after an X-ray yesterday revealed he has a hairline fracture in an ankle. Chelsea's Dutch player-manager was injured 16 minutes after coming on as a substitute in the 3-2 defeat at Derby on Saturday.

Southampton have signed the striker Mickey Evans from Plymouth Argyle for pounds 500,000 - a record sale for the Devon club and a fee which could rise depending on appearances. The 24-year-old is expected to go straight into the squad for tomorrow's Premiership game at home to Everton as the Saints look to build on Saturday's 1-0 win at Newcastle.

Leicester City will abide by the decision to name Mike Reed as the referee for their Premiership match at Chelsea next month. The Birmingham official angered Leicester when his penalty decision gave Chelsea victory in last week's FA Cup fifth-round replay at Stamford Bridge. Leicester's manager, Martin O'Neill, said: "It is not our place to make the decision for the authorities. No matter what our feelings are, we can't go around picking who is going to referee our games."

Paul Ince could spurn the advances of some of England's top clubs when he decides on where to play his football next season and stay in Italy. The Internazionale midfielder, who scored twice in Saturday's 3-0 victory over Piacenza, has repeatedly been linked with a move back to the Premiership - but Ince could be about to cold shoulder a return to England when he makes his decision in two weeks' time.

Aberdeen are to part company with their captain, Stewart McKimmie, after more than 13 years with the club. The Pittodrie manager, Roy Aitken, said yesterday the 34-year-old defender's contract will not be renewed in June.

Terry Venables is bringing the Australian goalkeeper Zeljko Kalac to Portsmouth for a second crack at English football. The 6ft 7in Kalac, who was a flop at Leicester, has agreed to sign for Pompey from Sydney United in a pounds 400,000 deal.

Aston Villa have had a pounds 600,000 bid rejected by Preston for their central defender, Sean Gregan.

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