St Ledger is Pool target

Paul Hyland

DAMIEN Comolli's first task as John Henry's eyes and ears at Anfield will be to pursue and sign Sean St Ledger in a bid to bolster Roy Hodgson's rearguard.

The former Arsenal scout and Spurs Director of Football faces stiff opposition from Aston Villa for the signature of one of Giovanni Trapattoni's most consistent performers.

With Preston struggling to pay down debt, the expectation is that St Ledger will be offered to the highest bidder in January, with a price tag of about £4m.

Assistant boss Sammy Lee has been watching the Irish defender closely for a few months.

Villa boss Gerard Houllier is confident he will win the race and has already spoken to Richard Dunne about his international partner.

Comolli will be centrally involved in the buying and selling of players, a fact which doesn't seem to bother Roy Hodgson.

"There are a lot of elements that need to be dealt with: recruitment, scouting, the academy -- all of this has a life of its own outside the first team squad, as well as the other numerous administrative tasks.

"It is a large body of work," said Hodgson.

"The days of the dictatorial type English manager, when nobody dared buy a paper clip without his approval, are gone.''