Coppell in line to replace Bassett

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Steve Coppell, who walked out of Manchester City less than four months ago after only 33 days at the club, is in line to return to management with Crystal Palace. Coppell is understood to have been offered the chance to manage Palace for a second time following yesterday's surprise announcement that Dave Bassett is leaving to become general manager of Nottingham Forest.

Bassett is to work alongside Stuart Pearce, Forest's caretaker player- manager. A club spokesman said: " He will be responsible for everything that Stuart Pearce doesn't have time to do. Stuart will still be in charge of all team affairs and Dave will be there to support him."

A statement from Selhurst Park said that Ron Noades, the Palace chairman, "has been left reeling at the decision and cannot at this stage give any indication who is going to be running team affairs in the immediate future".

However, it is believed the job has been offered to Coppell, who has been doing scouting work for Palace in recent weeks following his dramatic departure from Manchester City. If Coppell turns the job down, Ray Lewington, Bassett's assistant, may be appointed caretaker until the end of the season.

Coppell, who in his first spell was the most successful manager in Palace's history, returned as director of football two years ago, but left last October to join Manchester City. Within five weeks, however, he had resigned because of health problems caused by what he called "the huge pressure" of the job.

Coppell had taken the City post after Bassett had declined it. To complete the irony of yesterday's events, Forest have recruited Bassett in the wake of the departures of Frank Clark and Alan Hill, their manager and assistant manager respectively, who are now in charge at Manchester City.

The Forest spokesman said that Bassett had been brought in "to replace Alan Hill", although the job appears to be much higher-profile than that. Pearce has little experience of buying players and negotiating contracts and Bassett, who has agreed a 30-month deal believed to be worth around pounds 400,000 a year, is likely to assume responsibility for these areas.

Bassett said: "I won't be Stuart's boss and he won't be mine. I'll just take on all the other things which get in his way of running the team. He's caretaker-manager until the end of the season and we will see what happens then, but he's said he doesn't want being manager to get in the way of him playing for Forest or keeping his England place."

He added: "We're being given money to buy and he'll be saying which players he wants and so will I."

Asked whether he might take charge at the end of the season, with Pearce reverting to a player-coach role, Bassett said: "Obviously that is a possibility, but I don't know what Stuart has in mind for the long term and it will be down to him to decide."

Bassett, who has kept his family home in Yorkshire despite having joined Palace a year ago, is likely to have been attracted by the ambitious plans of Forest's new owners. A consortium headed by Nigel Wray, the owner of Saracens rugby union club, and Irving Scholar, the former Tottenham chairman, won control of Forest this week and has pledged to make substantial funds available to buy new players.

"I'm getting in at the ground floor of something new," Bassett said. "For me it is right financially, career-wise and domestically. I'm 52 now and don't want to be turning up at muddy training grounds for the rest of my life."

Bassett's contract at Palace, which was renegotiated after Manchester City's approach, gave him permission to leave for another club, provided Palace received adequate compensation, which Forest have paid. When asked if Forest had made an illegal approach for Bassett, Noades pointed out that the Premiership club had only made contact with him yesterday morning. He said he then told Bassett, who told him by mid-afternoon that he had agreed terms and wanted to leave.

Bassett said of Noades: "We are still friends, but he's disappointed and I am too, in some ways."