Middlesbrough close in on Coly

Lisa Welton
Friday 15 November 2002 01:00

The Middlesbrough manager Steve McClaren is close to signing the Senegalese international right-back Ferdinand Coly for a bargain £1m despite strong competition from Birmingham City.

McClaren sees the powerful Lens defender as the answer to a problem position in his side. The club's chief executive Keith Lamb has been in talks with Coly's agents over the past few days in an attempt to secure a contract with the African, who is a free agent at the end of the season.

Boro are hoping to bring Coly, one of the best players at the World Cup finals last summer, to the Riverside early in the New Year. Coly is currently in dispute with Lens because he will not sign a new deal and he has been dropped from the first-team, a row that originally alerted Birmingham.

But while the Birmingham manager Steve Bruce would prefer to sign Coly on a free transfer next summer, Boro have stepped in with the offer. They have also been linked with Leeds United's right-back Danny Mills, but the England player's price is likely to be out of their range.

The Scottish international defender Paul Ritchie has had to end his loan spell at Portsmouth and return to Manchester City with a torn stomach muscle. Ritchie is facing five to six weeks on the sidelines.

With Gianluca Festa also injured, Pompey must now step up their search for a new centre-half. The club have been linked with the Nigerian international Taribo West, who is a free agent and has turned down an offer from Dunfermline Athletic.

Watford have appealed to their former chairman Sir Elton John to help them escape their financial problems.

The Hornets need to raise £9.5m to stay afloat for the next the two years despite players and staff agreeing to a wage deferral. Their chairman, Graham Simpson, has written to the singer, who resigned earlier this year, asking for support but has yet to hear back.

Nine Stoke City fans have been banned for life from the Britannia Stadium for racist chanting during the recent game with Wolverhampton Wanderers. The move comes on the back of magistrates' decision to bar each of the supporters from all football grounds for three years.

The Cameroon international, Joseph Ndo, has been on trial at Coventry City this week but the club's desire to sign the 26-year-old striker has been thwarted as Ndo does not qualify for a work permit.

Mark Kennedy, the Wolves winger, has pulled out of the Republic of Ireland squad to face Greece in a friendly in Athens on Wednesday as a precaution. He has been out of action since March with a groin injury. However, he is expected to play in tomorrow's First Division match at Coventry.

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