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Jess in talks about staying

Adam Bell  Wednesday, May 16, 2001  14:09 GMT

Jim Jefferies has opened talks to keep Eoin Jess at Bradford City.

The Bantams boss wants to head off potential interest from other clubs, particularly Hibernian, by nailing a new deal quickly for the Scottish international midfielder. He spoke briefly with Jess's agent Struan Marshall yesterday although a planned sit-down meeting tomorrow has been cancelled because Marshall is in Dortmund for tonight's UEFA Cup final.

Jefferies said: "We have had a chat already and we'll try to do something over the phone at the end of the week. I would like to sort it out soon because Eoin has done very well for us.

"He has settled in well and performed in difficult circumstances. If we can get him then he will be a big asset for next season."

Jess, who has been on a short-term contract, said: "I've enjoyed it and feel I've done quite well in the time I've been back in the Premiership."

But Peter Atherton's move to Birmingham, where he has been on loan since February, is threatened by a boardroom dispute at St Andrew's.

A deal hinges on Birmingham seeing off Preston tomorrow to reach the Division One play-off final but even then Blues manager Trevor Francis faces a battle with his board who are reluctant to sanction it.

Atherton said: "It was known from the start of the loan when it was going to end, and if I can help Birmingham into the play-off final then great.

"I don't know what the manager has got planned and my focus has to be on the Preston game."

City chairman Geoffrey Richmond said: "A new contract has been agreed between Birmingham and Peter Atherton, but that is subject to them winning promotion to the Premiership.

"If they want to play him in the play-off final they will have to sign him permanently."

Jefferies will not know until mid-June how much transfer money will be available and a lot will depend on whether he can shift Atherton, Matt Clarke and Lee Sharpe – who has begun talks with Portsmouth.

But he will spend a nominal fee on Australian left winger Dino Mennillo who impressed while training with City. Mennillo, who has an Italian passport, is in Australia to get married but Jefferies plans to bring him back from his club Wollongong Wolves in time for pre-season.

He said: "Although Dino couldn't play any games while he was here he looked very sharp, and like all Australians is a great competitor who hates losing. He's got a good attitude.

"He won't cost a fortune and we will get him on an incentive-based contract."

City are currently giving a trial to Argentinian defender Luciano Zavagno, who plays in France, after a recommendation by former Aberdeen and Metz striker Eric Black.

Valley Parade hosts the final reserve game of the season tonight when Leeds are the visitors (7pm).

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