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Stoke City ahead in race for Austin

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 05, 2008 4:47 am    Post subject: Stoke City ahead in race for Austin Reply with quote

Brazil, MLS teams join rush for Reggae Boy
BY SEAN A WILLIAMS Assistant Sports Editor
Wednesday, June 25, 2008

LOCAL-BASED Portmore United and English Premier League outfit Stoke City are close to agreeing to a deal for the services of Jamaican midfielder Rudolph Austin. Meanwhile, the player is being aggressively pursued by other interests in Brazil and the MLS in the United States.

Portmore, the club that discovered and nurtured the talent of the 22-year-old, is at this stage keeping an open mind and will settle with the club that offers the best overall package in the best interest of the player and the Jamaican Premier League champions.

"We're very excited about the prospects for Rudolph and are delighted with the very positive interest shown by Stoke City. Currently, we are in discussions with Stoke and two other serious and significant interests from Brazil and MLS in the USA," said Portmore director Howard McIntosh yesterday.

"We want the best for the player and the English Premier League is the best league in the world and we are inclined to lean in that direction, but we're also committed to looking at all the options available in the best interest of the player and the club," he added.

Austin triggered Brazilian interest while on a three-week, five-match tour of the South American country with a local-based Reggae Boyz outfit in March. Back then, two clubs - Atletico Paraenense and Coritiba FC - did not hide their intentions to lure the hard-running player their way after his impressive form in the five games. With talks at a delicate stage, McIntosh was understandably not prepared to name the MLS club.

"We're proud of what Rudolph has been able to achieve after being away from the game for some time. These options have to be discussed and decided in a dispassionate environment, and I'm confident that we'll arrive at the best decision at the end of the day for the player and the club," said McIntosh, who is also chairman of the technical committee for the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF).

In an interview with this newspaper, Austin had suggested that if it was his decision alone, he would prefer to play in England, but said: "I would play anywhere where the opportunity arises."

Meanwhile, Stoke City manager, Tony Pulis, said in the British press yesterday that Stoke were closing in on signing the Jamaican.
Austin, who has had trials with the club before, improved his case for a work permit to play in England after appearing in Jamaica's back-to-back World Cup qualifiers against the Bahamas last week, where he helped his team to a 13-0 aggregate win.

Pulis, speaking in the Sentinel newspaper in Britain, disclosed that moves were in place to try to tie up the player's transfer from Portmore for an undisclosed six-figure fee.

"It's a staggered deal if we do it," he said. "It is all based around how well he does over here. As everyone knows, we've had him over a few times to look at him in training and he's looked a decent prospect," Pulis was quoted as saying.

"He's still a young lad and will obviously have to prove himself, but we think he might be worth the chance... he's a strong, quick and aggressive type with two good feet, and he can also play in one or two positions," he added.

Stoke City official, John Rodge, was recently in the island in an effort to further cement the Austin deal, and according to McIntosh, the negotiations were "positive and encouraging".

Were it not for a long lay-off from action due to injury, Austin would have joined Stoke with Reggae Boyz teammate Demar Phillips last season as he would have qualified for a work permit, having played the requisite number of competitive internationals.

Both Phillips and Austin were recommended to Pulis by Stoke City hero and fellow Reggae Boy, Ricardo Fuller.

The manager is hoping the presence of both Fuller and Phillips would help Austin settle in early at the Britannia should a deal be finalised. "That's a factor in our favour," added Pulis. "With Ric and Demar over here, it's been a good point of contact and will help him settle in a foreign land," he added.

Fuller, long plying his craft in the United Kingdom, is in the United States undergoing tests with renowned knee specialist Dr Richard Steadman to ensure he suffered no serious damage to his meniscus lateral ligament after pulling up in a recent friendly international against Grenada in that country earlier this month, which the Boyz lost 1-2. Stoke gained automatic promotion to Engand's top league after finishing runners-up to West Bromwich Albion in the English Championship last season.
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