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Dec 22, 2005

Nigeria plans talks with English clubs on player release

LAGOS, Dec 22 (Reuters) - Nigeria will hold talks with three Premiership clubs this week over the release of players for the African Nations Cup, a Nigeria Football Association (NFA) spokesman said on Thursday.

'National team coach Austin Eguavoen will meet officials of West Bromwich Albion, Everton and Bolton Wanderers between Friday and next week to discuss our players being released in time for the tournament,' Robinson Okosun said.

'We know the clubs need the players but we also need them for a good performance in the tournament.'

Nigeria won the Nations Cup, which takes place in Egypt from Jan. 20 to Feb. 10 next year, in 1980 and 1994 but came third in 2004 and are hoping to improve on that performance this time.

Eguavoen has included Nigeria captain Jay-Jay Okocha of Bolton, Everton defender Joseph Yobo and West Brom forward Nwankwo Kanu in a 49-man squad that began preparing on Wednesday at a training camp in the coastal Portuguese resort of Faro.

Okosun said the trio's clubs had written to the NFA saying they would only be released 'very close to the start of the tournament'.

He added: 'This is not good for us in terms of adequate preparations. So Eguavoen is going to negotiate with the clubs so that we can have them at least for two weeks before kick off.'

The rules of world soccer's governing body FIFA state that clubs must release players to their national teams 14 days before the start of a tournament.

Nigeria has been previously involved in rows with overseas clubs over the release of its players.

Okosun added that defender Abbey George of English third division club Port Vale would miss the Nations Cup due to a groin injury.

'He got in touch with us to say he can only start playing in two month's time, so we've dropped him from the squad,' he said.

Nigeria have been drawn in Group D with west African rivals Ghana and Senegal as well as Zimbabwe.