Holland linked with Spurs move

CLUBS always prefer to keep transfer negotiations secret until they have been concluded, writes Tony Garnett. The reason is obvious. Any delay in a well-publicised transfer gives rival clubs an opportunity to step in.

CLUBS always prefer to keep transfer negotiations secret until they have been concluded, writes Tony Garnett. The reason is obvious. Any delay in a well-publicised transfer gives rival clubs an opportunity to step in.

It has been assumed that Ipswich Town's skipper Matt Holland would sign for newly-promoted Portsmouth once he has completed the Republic of Ireland's home Euro 2004 qualifier against Georgia on Wednesday.

Passing a medical should be a formality for a player who hardly ever misses a match while it would be surprising if there was a problem over agreeing personal terms even if a tweak is needed here or there.

Now, if strong rumours are to be believed, Tottenham Hotspur are planning to come into the reckoning for Holland's signature. Spurs are now aware of the £750,000 asking price and it may be a matter of offering more tempting personal terms.


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Any question marks over Glenn Hoddle's immediate future as Tottenham manager have been dispelled by supportive chairman Daniel Levy. Of course Hoddle's assistant, John Gorman, knows Holland better than most after working with him as coach to George Burley for several months at Portman Road in 1999.

Should Holland join Spurs he may find it possible to stay in his present house and avoid any upheaval.

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Ipswich are keen to sign an experienced goalkeeper without the need to pay a transfer fee. Manager Joe Royle had his eyes on Ian Bennett of Birmingham City, but he is apparently set to stay at St Andrew's for another two years.

Maybe Royle, currently recharging his batteries in the Mediterranean sunshine, will now turn his attention to Ben Roberts, who will be 28 later this month.

Roberts, born at Bishop Auckland, stands an imposing 6ft 2ins and spent the first eight years of his career with Middlesbrough for whom he made 16 league appearances. He also had loan spells with Hartlepool, Wycombe Wanderers, Bradford City, Millwall and Luton Town.

He was understudy to Dean Kiely at Charlton, playing six matches on loan to Reading the season before last. Roberts won an England Under-21 cap as a substitute against Sweden in 1997.

At this time of the year speculation is rife, rumours abound but nothing can be taken for granted until the ink has dried on the contract.

Mich D'Avray, the South African-born former Ipswich Town striker in the eighties, is now coach to Perth Glory in Australia. He has sent star defender David Tarka to Newcastle United for a trial.

Why, then, did D'Avray not help out his old club rather than contact Sir Bobby Robson? The answer is plain. Perth Glory want £1 million for Tarka which Ipswich just cannot afford in the present climate.

The odds for next season's league football are available. West Ham United are favourites for the Division One title with a best price of 4-1. Ipswich Town, Sunderland and Sheffield United can all be backed at 9-1 although some bookmakers have all three of them at shorter odds.

Other best prices with leading bookmakers are: 12-1 West Bromwich, 14-1 Nottingham Forest, 20-1 Reading, Wigan, Norwich City, 25-1 Millwall, Crystal Palace and Cardiff City, 33-1 Preston and Wimbledon, 40-1 Derby County and Watford, 50-1 Coventry City, 66-1 Gillingham and Burnley, 100-1 Rotherham United and Bradford City, 125-1 Walsall, 150-1 Stoke City and Crewe Alexandra.

Colchester United are 50-1 for the Division Two title. QPR are 7-1 favourites with Sheffield Wednesday at 15-2 and Bristol City and Brighton at 9-1.

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