Bids for Bent are accepted

EVERTON and Portsmouth are embroiled in a dog-fight to sign Ipswich Town striker Marcus Bent after both tabled £450,000 bids last night, writes Derek Davis.

EVERTON and Portsmouth are embroiled in a dog-fight to sign Ipswich Town striker Marcus Bent after both tabled £450,000 bids last night, writes Derek Davis.

But West Bromwich Albion are likely to offer the stiffest competition to both clubs for the hit man, who netted 10 goals in 29 appearances while on loan at struggling Leicester City last season, while Scott Dobie and Danny Dichio with five apiece were the Baggies' top scorers.

Ipswich Town named their price for the striker, who George Burley paid £3m to Blackburn in November 2002.

And Town boss Joe Royle last night confirmed Ipswich had accepted bids

Royle said: "All three clubs have asked about Marcus, and Everton and Portsmouth have both made bids in the region of £450,000.

"We have accepted the offers and it's now down to Marcus to decide where he wants to go."

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Bent is due back from his holiday today but it is understood that Pompey and Everton have already spoken to his agent and he is likely to discuss personal terms in the next 48 hours.

Pompey were keen to sign former Colchester United favourite Lomana Lua Lua but refused to pay the £2m that Newcastle United demanded for the Congo DR international. And after initially saying they were not prepared to pay a fee for Bent, they have changed their minds. Everton, who have also been linked with Lua Lua, would be swimming in money if they were to sell hot shot Wayne Rooney, but Moyes is looking to partner the England man with Bent, with Canadian striker Tomasz Radzinski slapping in a transfer request.

The duo could end up being supplied by Jermaine Wright, who has officially turned down an offer of a new contract at Ipswich Town and becomes a free agent next week.

Town could not match the £12,000 a week I understand Wright has been offered to play for a top-flight club.

Everton are among a handful of Premiership clubs linked with Wright, while Leeds United and Derby County have also shown an interest.

It is looking increasingly likely that Martijn Reuser will sign for Dutch club Willem II next week. Town have also lost John McGreal, who has signed for Burnley. Royle will hold off bringing in any new players until next month as the Blues bid to challenge for the newly-named Coca-Cola Championship and win promotion to the Premiership but admitted he would not be signing any players from Euro 2004.

The Town boss has been co-commentating with John Motson on England games and has been asked to return to Portugal tomorrow for the quarter-final and then the semi-finals and final if Sven-Goran Eriksson's side make it, although previous commitments may prevent him returning tomorrow.

Royle said: "We still have a lot of housekeeping to do in order to bring the wage bill down further. Things will be a bit clearer in 10 days or so when we know for sure who is here and who has gone.

"We have contingency plans and I have earmarked certain players but none from the tournament.

"If we had made it into the Premiership, going to Portugal would have been ideal for scouting but now it has just been something of a busman's holiday."

Fabian Wilnis and Chris Makin have confirmed they will sign new contracts with Ipswich next week, while Richard Naylor is almost certain to agree his new deal.

Skipper Jim Magilton has yet to give an indication on what he will do and Royle is hoping to speak to the Ulsterman today.

All players offered new contracts have until tomorrow to accept, or reject, the new deals, or the club is entitled to withdraw the offers. Players who do not sign new deals before next Wednesday when their contracts expire, become free agents, along with Alun Armstrong and Chris Bart-Williams, who were told they were no longer required.

Pre-season training starts on Monday when the whole squad is required to report. New signing Jason De Vos will meet his new team-mates although he is not likely to do any heavy running after playing in World Cup qualifiers early this month.

n Hibernian last night confirmed that Mark Venus will, as expected, be joining Tony Mowbay at Easter Road in the role of player-coach.

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