Villa ready to end Given's City torture
SHAY GIVEN'S Manchester City nightmare looks close to an end as Aston Villa last night emerged favourites to sign the Ireland goalkeeper.
One bookmaker yesterday suspended betting on the Donegal man becoming one of the first signings of Alex McLeish's reign at Villa Park.
Several clubs are monitoring the situation of the want-away 'keeper, who has expressed his desire to leave Eastlands in order to play first-team football regularly next season.
Villa, however, are the firm favourites to land Given, having provided the most concrete evidence that they can put a deal together that will satisfy both the player and City, who will accept a transfer fee of £5m for him.
Given lost his place to England 'keeper Joe Hart last season and made only four appearances for big-spending City before damaging a shoulder in April.
He recovered in time to play an important role in Ireland's vital 2-0 over Macedonia in a Euro 2012 qualifier in Skopje.
While Villa are in pole position to sign the 113-times capped 'keeper, it appears their interest in former player James Milner does not meet with City's transfer policy as Roberto Mancini attempts to build a squad capable of mounting an assault on the Premier League and Champions League next season.
City have earmarked the young Partizan Belgrade defender Stefan Savic to strengthen their defence.
The 20-year-old, who attracted Arsenal's interest last summer and was linked with Chelsea before last January's transfer window, may cost City as much as £8.9m.
Mancini, whose hopes of luring Alexis Sanchez to Eastlands are diminishing after the Chilean winger insisted that he will stay at Udinese if he fails to agree a move to Barcelona, has identified Savic as his leading defensive target. The City manager has abandoned plans to sign Bolton's Gary Cahill, who is expected to complete a £17m move to Arsenal this week.
Partizan have warned City that they will not sell the 20-year-old until next month after demanding that he plays in the Champions League qualifier against FK Skendija.
UEFA regulations allow players to play in the group stages for their new club if their previous club has been eliminated in the qualifying rounds.
However, should Savic help Partizan qualify, he would be cup-tied for City's group stage campaign.
Meanwhile, former City captain Mike Doyle has died after losing his battle with liver disease at the age of 64. Doyle won every domestic honour and the European Cup Winners' Cup during his 16-year career with City in the 1960s and 1970s.
"He was the heart and soul of Manchester City and the club meant everything to him," said former team-mate Mike Summerbee.
"Mike was somebody you always wanted alongside you when the going got tough. He was a great player and was also a nice bloke into the bargain."
Doyle was a life-long City supporter, a boyhood regular at Maine Road while growing up in Reddish.
He joined City in 1962, at the age of 15, and made his debut two years later. By the time of City's First Division title triumph in 1967-68, the passionate, assertive Doyle was a regular in the No 4 shirt.
The following year City won the FA Cup, and they secured the League Cup and Cup Winners' Cup in 1970.
Doyle became captain in the mid-70s and the high point of his career came in '76 when he lifted the League Cup trophy after City beat Newcastle 2-1 in the final.
As a fierce City supporter, Doyle's deep antipathy for Manchester United was proud and public. He took great relish in celebrating in front of the Stretford End after scoring in City's 2-1 win at Old Trafford in March 1970. Then, in March '74 Doyle and United's Lou Macari were sent off for fighting in a derby at Maine Road, but refused to leave the pitch.
Between March 1968 and September 1975, Doyle played in 16 derbies and lost only one.