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Football: Wolves hoping Richards will fall back on Molineux.

Dean Richards has been asked to give Wolverhampton Wanderers first refusal if he fails to achieve his Premiership dream this summer.

The 24-year-old central defender, Wolves' pounds 1.8 million record signing from his hometown club, Bradford City, four years ago, is free to leave under the Bosman ruling.

A return to Bradford, just promoted to the top flight, could well be on the cards, while other Premier League clubs will also be keen to talk to the former England Under-21 international.

But Wolves manager Colin Lee, whose own future has yet to be resolved, has not closed the door completely on the possibility of Richards staying at Molineux.

"I have asked Dean to give us the chance to talk to him again if he doesn't get a Premiership club," Lee said. "But at the moment, I'm planning without him for next season, because I think he will get fixed up."

Lee has offered one-year deals to skipper Keith Curle and winger Paul Simpson, who are also out of contract, while Michael Gilkes could be retained if the manager's spending power is restricted during the close season.

"It would be terrific if Keith stayed, because he has done such a good job for us," Lee said. "Hopefully, something can be resolved soon.

"I offered Paul a contract because his position on the left of midfield is difficult to fill. He's not someone who will get to the byline, but his delivery is excellent.

"Michael has been told he is being released, but if the financial situation doesn't change, he may stay because we only have one other left-back in Lee Naylor. If he can get something else in the meantime, we have told him to do that."

Wolves have also given free transfers to Mark Atkins, Darren Ferguson and Fernando Gomez, while David Connolly is returning to Dutch club Feyenoord.

Irish striker Dominic Foley, who recently had a spell on loan to a Greek club, has been offered a year's contract on lower terms, but has been told he must make a decision quickly.

Connolly, meanwhile, has been named in the Republic of Ireland squad to face Northern Ireland on May 29, along with Robbie Keane, West Bromwich Albion winger Kevin Kilbane and Coventry City defender Gary Breen.

Coventry's Barry Quinn is in the Irish Under-21 squad, while another Sky Blues youngster is wanted north of the border.

Dundee United are keen to sign John Eustace on a permanent deal, after the 19-year-old midfielder impressed during a three-month loan at Tannadice. Coventry manager Gordon Strachan, though, is not willing to let Eustace go.

"John figures in my plans to step up to the first team," Strachan said. "Although every player has a price, I wouldn't imagine United's valuation would match what we are looking for."
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Author:Bishop, Rob
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:May 13, 1999
Words:465
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