ENGLAND'S number of representatives in Europe next season rose to six yesterday - the highest since Heysel - when Newcastle United were invited into the Uefa Cup.
The decision by Uefa, European football's governing body, had been expected following the inability of the troubled former Yugoslavia to field teams. England, assisted by two Cup-Winners' Cup successes in three years, were adjudged worthy of one position, which the FA offered to 'an absolutely delighted' Newcastle. Sir John Hall, St James' ebullient chairman, said: 'We are getting a linguist in to teach the fans how to say Toon Army in several different languages.' Newcastle, currently celebrating the 25th anniversary of their Fairs' Cup triumph, last experienced Europe in 1978 when they fell to Bastia in the second round of the Uefa Cup. The draw for next season's competition takes place on 20 July.
Brian Laudrup, Fiorentina's attacking midfielder loaned out to Milan last season, spent yesterday with his family looking around Rangers. Walter Smith, the Ibrox manager prepared to pay pounds 3.5m for the Danish international, said: 'Most of the talks have been held. It's up to the player himself now.'
Marco Van Basten, the imperious but persistently injured Dutchman Laudrup was employed to understudy last season, has been ordered by Milan not to play in the World Cup, for fear of ruining his rehabilitation following ankle surgery. The three-time European footballer of the year was surprisingly called up by the Netherlands to replace another San Siro idol, Ruud Gullit, despite not having played for a year. But Milan's deputy chairman, Adriano Galliani, ended the Dutch plan, saying: 'Van Basten is in no condition to take part in the World Cup.' Anderlecht's John Bosman travels instead.
Chris Sutton, the pounds 4m-rated Norwich City striker linked to all the wealthy Premiership clubs, yesterday criticised the speculation frenzy. 'It is all getting a bit ridiculous now, especially as I have heard nothing,' Sutton said.
Peter Atherton, the Coventry City defender, is expected to sign for Sheffield Wednesday today following yesterday's talks at Hillsborough about a pounds 500,000 move. Wednesday plan to play Atherton at right-back as Roland Nilsson's replacement.
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