Pneumonia ruins Cole's new start

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The Independent Online
Andy Cole has contracted pneumonia and will be out for five weeks, thereby missing the start of the season. The former British record signing had seen his Manchester United career threatened by the possible arrival of Alan Shearer this summer, but now finds himself displaced by illness.

The pounds 7m signing from Newcastle - the club who eventually secured the services of Shearer - had originally been thought to be suffering from bronchitis but that diagnosis turned out to be incorrect.

It is yet another blow for the 24-year-old, whose career since his move from St James' Park two seasons ago has been blighted by indifferent form and injury. His goal touch deserted him alarmingly, yet Alex Ferguson persevered with the player until, at the climax to the season, in the FA Cup final at Wembley, the United manager was forced to substitute him.

Had Shearer's move to United gone through, Everton were prepared to offer Cole the chance to resurrect his career. Now his enforced absence provides his young deputy, Paul Scholes, with the opportunity to establish himself in the side.

Cole will not be the only absentee today when United face Ajax in the four-team Umbro tournament at Nottingham. Quite apart from Gary Pallister, Ryan Giggs, Nicky Butt and now Cole, it looks as if United, who yesterday unveiled their new strip, will also be without their latest signing, Jordi Cruyff, whose clearance papers have been held up at the Spanish FA. "We've been trying non-stop to get his papers but it always seems to be manana over there," Ferguson said.

One player who seems sure to be there is Patrick Kluivert, the young Dutch international, for whom Blackburn Rovers yesterday denied making a bid. He is rumoured to be keen on a move to a British club, and United are among the clubs believed to be interested in the player, valued at about pounds 10m.

Celtic and Alan Stubbs, their new signing, were yesterday given fines totalling pounds 70,000 by Fifa, world football's governing body, for using an unlicensed agent, Neil Rioch, in the former Bolton defender's transfer to Parkhead.

In fining Celtic pounds 42,000 and Stubbs pounds 28,000, Fifa warned the Scottish Premier Division club that any repetition of the indiscretion could lead to a freeze on transfer activities.

Arsenal, who have been conspicuous by their lack of activity in the transfer market, have announced a pre-tax loss of more than pounds 3.6m on last season. The club's commercial and retail profits were down by nearly pounds 2m from pounds 12.99m in the previous year while wages rose by more than pounds 1m to pounds 10.06m. Peter Hill-Wood, the chairman, blamed the deficit on the club's absence from European football.

Terry Venables, the former England coach, has told Portsmouth that they must sort out their financial problems before he can consider joining them as part owner. "It will need a lot of cash to rejuvenate the club, which is just not there," he said. "Hopefully things could change."

Meanwhile, along the south coast at Brighton, plans for a new stadium alongside a shopping complex at Toads Hole Valley have been rejected by the local council. The beleaguered Seagulls could still end up ground sharing with Portsmouth.