ANDY Bishop is ready to drop two divisions to play for York City next season.

Former Arsenal star and England international Paul Merson - now Walsall manager - has offered the 20-year-old striker a new contract at the Bescot Stadium but Bishop has signalled his intention to join City.

Having not yet made his Saddlers' debut, the lure of first-team football is proving hard for Bishop to resist.

Merson had indicated that he could make the breakthrough this season but, despite appearing on the bench for Walsall in last season's First Division, the 6ft tall forward has decided on a switch to Bootham Crescent.

He said: "I was offered another contract at Walsall before I came here but I felt it was time to move on and try to get first-team football week in, week out. A couple of other clubs have been interested but, having spoken to Chris Brass and, knowing him from last season when he wanted me, I wanted to come here.

"I phoned Merse up when we were supposed to return to training having spoken to the gaffer here. I told Merse about my situation and he said it was a good opportunity.

"He said I could come up but, if nothing came out of it, I could still go back to Walsall. He's been a top bloke.

"It has been disappointing not to get a game at Walsall. You have got to bide your time and take your chance when it comes. Unfortunately mine never did.

"I came close a few times when I got on the bench and, in fact, it looked more promising when Merse took over for the last four games of the season. He said that I was very close and that he wanted me involved this year.

"But York are a nice club and it is very nice place to be. I would be happy enough to come here.

"I've been offered a deal and it was just a case of coming up to get to know the lads. I'm in the process of signing and I can't see any problems at all."

Bishop has also turned down an opportunity to stay in the Football League with Somerset outfit Yeovil - one of three clubs, also including Rochdale and Kidderminster, where the Stone-born striker enjoyed goal-scoring loan spells last season.

He said: "A couple of the clubs I went on loan to showed an interest. I went to Yeovil at the end of last season but had a knee injury. They invited me back and I could have gone."

Bishop's acquisition could see City field a new-look strike force next season with ex-Newcastle United front-man Paul Robinson a possible partner.

It is a prospect the younger forward would welcome, saying: "I have scored goals wherever I have gone so hopefully I can get a few for York. Robbo looks a good forward and I would definitely like to play alongside him.

"We are different. I like to hold the ball up, turn and get shots off quickly. I also score quite a few with my head."

Bishop could wear City colours for the first time against Doncaster in Friday's friendly. He said: "It would be nice to get a game under my belt."

City are also close to signing centre-back Chris Clarke, who has been training with the Minstermen having been released by Cambridge United.

The 23-year-old started last season at Blackpool with City's summer signing Steve Davis before joining Cambridge in March. He joined Blackpool from Halifax for £120,000 in 2002.

Brass is also hoping to run the rule over trialist striker Paul Brayson.

Brayson, 27, scored 12 goals in 39 starts for Cheltenham last season but is now available for transfer and can also play on the left side of midfield.

He made his debut at Newcastle, where he played two League Cup games, before moving to Reading in a £100,000 deal. He later joined Cardiff.

Updated: 10:50 Wednesday, July 14, 2004