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LEE Hughes last night sensationally stunned Albion by handing in a written transfer request.

But Baggies chairman Tony Hale reacted to the move by insisting: "He's going nowhere."

Hughes, the country's top scorer with 32 goals, went to see chief executive John Wile after Albion's 1-0 victory over Bury and formally asked to leave.

The 22-year-old hotshot has been unhappy for some time and his desire to leave will rock Albion to their core.

The Smethwick-born striker has become a darling of the Brummie Road End after switching from non-league Kidderminster in a pounds 400,000 package deal two seasons ago. A spokesman for the player said: "Lee is Albion through and through and sees this very much as a last resort.

"This is not a Van Hooijdonk or Ravanelli situation - he is not trouble-making. But there have been a number of things going on behind the scenes which have unsettled him recently and, to be fair, it has shown in his play."

Hale and chief executive John Wile are adamant the Albion board will turn down Hughes' request.

Hale said: "Lee is one of our better players and we have no desire to let him go. "We've said that all along. The request will definitely be turned down.

"At this point, I don't know what has upset him and I don't really want to speculate. But problems can be ironed out, if indeed there is a problem."

Wile added: "The transfer request was totally unexpected. The letter was very straight forward so it is difficult to say what is up with him. But the request will be refused."

Hale and Wile will hold crisis talks with the player and his agents early next week.

Central to the problems Hughes has been facing is an ongoing contractual dispute with the club. He signed a four-year extension early in the season with the promise that his contract would be reviewed later in the campaign if he produced the goods.

Hughes is understood to be way down the pecking order in the Hawthorns' pay scale. And the club's reluctance to thrash out a new deal has forced him into taking the drastic action of asking to leave.

The news is certain to alert Middlesbrough boss Bryan Robson, who is believed to have been tracking Hughes for some time.

Meanwhile, Albion boss Denis Smith is sizing up a sensational move to make Wolves skipper Keith Curle his first summer signing.

Smith has already made an informal approach for Curle, who has just been offered a one-year deal to stay at Wolves - whether they are in the Premiership or not.
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Author:Howell, Bill
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:May 2, 1999
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