WOLVERHAMPTON Wanderers have tabled a bid for want-away York City goalkeeper Russ Howarth, the Evening Press can reveal.

Sources close to Molineux confirmed manager Dave Jones has finally stepped up his long-running interest in the young England goalkeeper with a cash offer.

However, the Evening Press also understands the Wolves bid was knocked back by City, who are clearly determined not to let the ace shot-stopper go cheaply.

Although Howarth is currently out of contract at City the Minstermen can still expect a fee for the youngster as he is under 24 years of age.

Howarth, who has been training with Wolves for the last three weeks, played the first-half last night as the Midland giants beat Kidderminster 2-0 in a pre-season friendly.

Wolves' cash offer is likely to be the opening salvo in what could turn out to be a long running saga.

Although the sums involved are unknown, it seems likely City will want a hefty fee - possibly even seven figures - for Howarth, who this summer was called-up for the England Under-21 squad and is rated as one of the hottest goalkeeping prospects around.

The Evening Press understands Wolves, who are wanting to keep a tight hand on the purse-strings this summer, will be reluctant to offer that sort of money, meaning the fee may have to be decided by a tribunal.

It is unlikely either club will want to go down that route, meaning a compromise could be reached with an initial down payment followed by further instalments linked to appearances and sell-ons.

Manager Terry Dolan, who has been away with his squad at a pre-season training camp in Durham, said any transfer deal would be handled by City's chief executive Keith Usher. He added he was unaware of any Wolves' bid for Howarth.

However, the City boss, who had offered the young goalkeeper a contract for next season, admitted he was anxious for the issue to be resolved soon.

Dolan's desire to sort out Howarth's future has been hastened by the injury picked up by first-choice goalkeeper Alan Fettis.

As reported in the Evening Press, the City shot-stopper suffered a broken finger during a training session this week.

A specialist has now confirmed Fettis (pictured below) will be out for between two and four weeks, meaning the Northern Ireland international is touch and go for the start of the season on August 10.

With just first-year pro' John Collinson as cover, Dolan admitted bringing in an experienced goalkeeper was now top of his list of priorities.

"I am addressing that situation now," said the City chief.

"I am not sure whether we will be bringing in someone permanently or just on loan but it will probably be a loan at this stage."

Collinson, who has yet to feature in a senior first-team game for City, was between the posts yesterday as City beat Halifax 2-1 in a behind closed-doors friendly.

To emphasise City's goalkeeping problems, first-year trainee net-minder David Stockdale was on the bench.

Updated: 12:09 Thursday, July 25, 2002