Cash row for Cats

DEPARTING goalkeeper Michael Ingham is waiting from a £20,000 bonus from Sunderland after making his brief international debut for Northern Ireland earlier this month.

Ingham is due to join Wrexham tomorrow with his Black Cats contract now in its final day.

But his time at the club could end on a sour note. The Echo understands Sunderland are suspicious about the motives behind Ingham's 14-minute debut for Northern Ireland against Germany on June 6.

The appearance not only nets the player a payout, but also means around 30,000 is due to his former club Cliftonville – whose ex-chairman Jim Boyce is president of the Irish Football Association.

Ingham was told some time ago that he could leave Sunderland and the Echo understands the club made efforts to pay-up the remainder of his contract in May.

No agreement was reached, and the bonuses due to the player and Irish club were triggered when Ingham was sent on in the 76th-minute of Northern Ireland's 4-1 defeat against Germany in Belfast.

Neither Ingham nor Cliftonville have been paid the money they say is due to them, but the keeper's agent, Paul Bielby, moved to quash talk of a conflict when he spoke to the Echo today.

"I'm sure this will be settled and everyone will get what they are due," said Bielby.

"Michael and I always had a good relationship with Sunderland during his six years there and they were always very professional in their conduct.

"If there have been reports that this is a row, I certainly don't know where they have come from. There is no conflict as far as I'm concerned.

"The situation is that it is in Michael's Sunderland contract that when he made his debut for his country he receives a payment. That was in his contract when he signed for Sunderland and it remained there when he renewed his contract.

"Michael has now made his debut and I'm sure everything will be sorted out soon regarding the bonus."

Bielby refuted any suggestion of underhand dealings given that his brief debut came so close to the expiry of Ingham's Sunderland contract.

"As far as I know, there is no dispute over this situation," he said.

"To me, it's quite straight forward; Manager picks player. Full stop. End of story. How many times has an international manager sent a player on as a substitute to get some experience? It happens all the time.

"The payment has not been in Michael's pay packet yet, but I'm sure it will be soon."

Sunderland declined to make any comment on the matter today.

Ingham was a 30,000 signing from Cliftonville in July 1999 but had to wait until the end of last season for his league debut, by which time he already knew he would be leaving Sunderland.