Taggart deal clears Stubbs' path to Highbury

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The Independent Online

The denials still emanated from Burnden Park, but the path was cleared for Alan Stubbs to join Arsenal last night when Bolton Wanderers bought his logical replacement, Gerry Taggart. Barnsley's 24-year-old Northern Ireland international central defender has agreed to move over the Pennines and into the Premiership in a pounds 1.5m deal. And as this follows Bolton's pounds 500,000 purchase of another centre-back, Chris Fairclough of Leeds, last month, mathematics alone suggest Stubbs will be moving shortly.

Arsenal, who made a pounds 4m bid for the 23-year-old England B player last month, would be his natural destination, particularly as Bruce Rioch, who was Stubbs' manager at Bolton for three years, is now in charge at Highbury. Rioch returns from a club tour of Sweden later this week, when he will reopen negotiations.

Roy McFarland, the Bolton manager, was sticking firmly to the Bolton "he is not going" line, however. "I know there will be more speculation about Stubbs, but I'm not thinking about selling him. This is all about increasing competition for players, not buying replacements for other people."

Taggart, meanwhile, clearly thought that competition was over. "Any player coming back up from a lower division wants to make his mark straight away. A few clubs were interested, but Bolton were the only club prepared to put money on the table."

Manchester City will pocket around half the profit on Taggart, whom they sold to Barnsley for pounds 75,000 in 1989, which will more than pay for an extended contract for Uwe Rosler. The German international striker has agreed a new four-year deal which he will sign next week.

Blackburn Rovers seem likely to be drawing on Jack Walker's ample bank balance imminently. The champions have been linked with Bolton's Jason McAteer and Nick Barmby of Tottenham, but instead seem likely to splash out on a relative unknown, the Darlington defender Adam Reed. The fee would be around pounds 200,000.

John Salako's impending pounds 1.5m move from Crystal Palace to Coventry is becoming drawn out enough for a soap opera. On Monday it was delayed by a queue of patients wanting to use a scanner in a local hospital, and yesterday the purchasers insisted on the former England international winger being examined by their orthopaedic specialist.

The doubt appears to centre on Salako's back, although he said: "There is only a bit of wear and tear, which is to be expected after 10 years in professional football. I don't expect any problems."

Which is not what Mark Walters anticipates, despite his being offered a new deal by Liverpool. "I've been offered a one-year contract, but it's not very good, to be honest," he said. "I think the club did that to make sure they get a fee if they sell me, but I don't know what they'd want for me. I'll just have to see what comes up. You would have to bet against me remaining at Anfield next season."

Paul Ince should face a comfortable introduction to Serie A later this month after his pounds 7m transfer to Internazionale from Manchester United. Inter's first match of the new Italian season is on 27 August against newly promoted Vicenza.

SERIE A FIXTURES (27 August): Atalanta v Parma; Bari v Napoli; Fiorentina v Torino; Internazionale v Vicenza; Juventus v Cremonese; Lazio v Piacenza; Padova v Milan; Sampdoria v Roma; Udinese v Cagliari.