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Fernando waiting on debut call at Wolves.

Spanish midfield ace Fernando was last night waiting to be cleared for his Wolverhampton Wanderers debut as Mark McGhee's Molineux summer sale hotted up.

As Steve Claridge forgot all claims for a "golden" handshake by completing his pounds 200,000 move to Portsmouth and Mixu Paatelainenen's planned pounds 75,000 drop down to Division Two with Preston moved a step closer, the focus has switched to former S panish international Fernando.

The 32-year-old former Valencia favourite has agreed terms and it is just a matter of waiting for international clearance by the 5pm deadline to determine whether he can make his Wolves bow at Barnet in tonight's Worthington Cup first-round tie.

Meanwhile, Claridge and Paatelainen are both hopeful of making debuts themselves for new clubs. Paatelainen first travelled up to Lancashire to watch Preston play Celtic in a friendly a fortnight ago, while a pounds 75,000 fee was agreed last week. Now, the big Finn has until 5pm today to sign if he is to play for his new club at Grimsby tomorrow night.

As for Claridge, he is hopeful of playing at Plymouth tonight, following a rapid conclusion to his transfer tangle.

After a summer spent chasing the 32-year-old striker, Pompey boss Alan Ball the man in charge at Fratton Park when Claridge was shown the door by his home-town club as an apprentice 15 years ago lost patience yesterday, threatening to pull out if the dea l wasn't done by midday. And that did the trick.

"Enough was enough," confirms Claridge, who had been holding out for a pounds 50,000 pay-off. "I was sick of the whole thing, so I decided to write off the money I was owed. It's the move I always wanted and playing football is more important than money. "

Although McGhee is keeping his options open on Fernando, Wolves are already forced into one change for tonight's first-leg tie at Underhill, Paul Simpson coming in to replace injury-plagued Steve Corica, who tweaked his hamstring in Saturday's 2-0 win ov er Tranmere.

Meanwhile, Wolves' Republic of Ireland striker Robbie Keane has become the latest recruit for Midlands-based TSA, run by former Wembley marketing director Tony Stephens. The 18-year-old joins an impressive list of players already represented by the compa ny Alan Shearer, Dwight Yorke, David Beckham, Michael Owen and David Platt.

"I had a number of approaches, but felt that TSA best suited me," said Keane. "I want to focus on training and my belief is that if you get your football right, everything else follows."

Walsall have signed Gillingham defender Richard Green, who goes into the side as they bid to add another illustrious scalp to their extensive collection tonight.

The Saddlers take on Queens Park Rangers at Bescot in the Worthington Cup, with 30-year-old Green making his debut on a month's loan. Formerly with Shrewsbury Town, Wolverhampton-born Green has played nearly 200 matches for the Kent club.

Tonight's tie brings Ray Harford's First Division side to a corner of the West Midlands which is forever enshrined in Cup folklore. As a League Cup winner with Aston Villa in 1975, manager Ray Graydon is anxious to relive some of Walsall's exploits on th e road to Wembley.

Under Jan Sorensen last season, the Saddlers claimed two First Division victims in Nottingham Forest and Sheffield United before going down with all guns blazing against Premiership West Ham United.

Having launched their Second Division campaign with a 1-0 win at Gillingham last Saturday and noted QPR's defeat at Sunderland by the same margin, Graydon's men will be confident of taking some kind of lead to Loftus Road.

"It's an attractive fixture for us and we hope to make the most of it," Graydon said. "As a First Division side, QPR must start the favourites but we've got players who could trouble them."
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Aug 11, 1998
Words:638
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