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Stuart Linnell[18 JUN 01] THE STUART LINNELL COLUMN
Stand By For The Summer Sales

As I write this, part of the Holyhead Road in Coventry is flooded with more torrential downpours forecast, the England cricketers are being written off as no-hopers and Coventry Cityís captain is linked to a move to Aston Villa. Itís summer!

Moustapha HadjiMoustapha Hadji could well be the first departure from Highfield Road as the close-season sales begin, with a move to Villa keeping him in the Premiership and offering City the intriguing prospect of a swap deal involving pacy striker Julian Joachim.

The former Leicester front man has never really settled in all his time at Villa Park and another move across the Midlands might well suit him (indeed, knowing how these deals can suddenly click into place, this transaction may even be completed by the time you read this article).

Another move that would surprise no one will almost certainly see Magnus Hedman leave the Sky Blues. Despite all the speculation that Magnus is heading for Italy or Spain, I expect that he, too, will stay in the Premiership with West Ham his most likely new home.

Hammers former manager Harry Redknapp rated Magnus highly and his enthusiasm for the big Ďkeeper is shared by his successor Glen Roeder. West Ham have not really had a settled favourite in their No 1 shirt for some years now, and Magnus might just be what theyíre looking for.

And then thereís John Hartson. The Welsh international joined Coventry last season partly because he wanted to return to the Premiership and because he and Gordon Strachan believed that big John would help us stay there. We all know that it didnít quite work out that way, and Hartson and his agent are thought to have been casting around to see what options might be available. At the same time, John has said publicly that he is very happy at Coventry and that he canít praise Strachan highly enough.

However, on the last Gary Newbon phone-in radio show of last season, on the nationwide talkSPORT radio station, a caller said that when signing autographs in Cardiff before playing there for Wales Hartson had told fans that he would be joining Leicester City.

So, where does that leave Coventry and Gordon Strachan? Remember, Coventry were prepared to enter in an unusual match-by-match transfer deal to rescue Hartson from Wimbledon because of medical doubts about his fitness. I wonder whether any other club would do the same. That said, why do we keep hearing that Noel Whelan is returning to Highfield Road from Middlesbrough?

If that is true, consider the options Gordon Strachan would have up front with Hartson, Whelan, Joachim if he comes, Craig Bellamy, Jay Bothroyd, Ysreal Zuniga and John Aloisi all available. There are one or two others Iíve left out. Nice to have competition for places, but when the club is having to restructure its finances after relegation, I somehow canít quite believe that weíll go into next season with all those names on board.

But then, thatís the fun of the summer sales. We can all play guessing games and offer opinions about who we should sign and who we should sell, and somewhere along the line we usually get a surprise.

One thing we do know. Gordon Strachan will have what is effectively a new name in his defence. Tomas Gustafsson, after two seasons of injury turmoil, is fit and planning to re-launch his hardly-started Coventry City career in August.

I, for one, look forward to seeing him contribute to a season already capturing the imagination of the City fans, if the early demand for season tickets is anything to go by. And itís not that far away. The players report back on 1 July, the season starts on 11 August. Just enough time to enjoy summer, with a paddle on the Holyhead Road!
  

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CWN / Sport / Football / Coventry City FC / Stuart Linnell / 18 Jun 01
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