Dispute over Roberts

NON-LEAGUE FOOTBALL
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The Independent Online
NON-LEAGUE FOOTBALL

BY RUPERT METCALF

Graham Roberts, the former Tottenham, Rangers and England defender, is at the centre of a bitter dispute between two GM Vauxhall Conference clubs.

Roberts, who lost his job as player-manager of Enfield last season, started this term as a player with Slough Town before moving on to Stevenage Borough for a nominal fee. At the end of January, when Yeovil Town decided to dispense with the services of their manager, Brian Hall, Roberts was the chosen replacement.

Roberts was under contract to Stevenage as a player, but the Hertfordshire club could not prevent him joining Yeovil as manager. The struggling Somerset side offered Stevenage what they had paid Slough, but that was turned down - Stevenage are asking for £25,000.

"That is well beyond our reach, and is ridiculous for a 35-year-old who only has about 50 games left in him," Bryan Moore, the Yeovil chairman, said yesterday. He is desperate to see his manager on the pitch instead of in the dug-out - Yeovil are one place off the bottom of the Conference and are eight points adrift of a safe league position. Relegation would be a disaster for the Huish Park club, who have debts of around half a million pounds.

"Roberts has had a brilliant and distinguished career, and he needs to be playing football," Moore added. "What Stevenage are doing is immoral."

Mick Rathbone, the former Birmingham City and Blackburn Rovers defender, has been sacked as assistant manager of Halifax Town for economic reasons. John Brown, the Halifax chairman, resigned last week. The former Football League club are facing an uncertain future after their landlords, Calderdale Borough Council, refused to sanction the sale of their ground, The Shay, which would have funded the construction of a new stadium.

The England semi-professional side's only remaining home fixture this season, against the Press and Journal Highland League XI from Scotland on Friday 19 May, will be played at Slough. England also have two away fixtures: against the Netherlands in Aalsmeer on Tuesday 11 April, and in Gibraltar on Wednesday 31 May. England beat Wales at Yeovil last week.

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