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FA charges besieged Graham with misconduct



The trials and tribulations of George Graham, the disgraced former Arsenal manager, intensified yesterday when the Football Association announced that he must answer a charge of misconduct. The accusation was a formality once the Premier League inquiry team had passed on evidence that Graham had received £425,000 from two transfer deals.

Meanwhile, Paul Ince, the Manchester United midfielder, learned he must face a charge of common assault at Croydon magistrates' court on 23 March following the fracas during his side's match at Crystal Palace in January.

After his dismissal two weeks ago, Graham has recently been in the Caribbean island of St Lucia on a golfing holiday. However, if found guilty by the FA, there can be no hiding place for the 50-year-old Scot. Lennart Johansson, the president of Uefa, the sport's European governing body, has already said that any manager convicted of taking money from transfers must be banned for life, a sanction that would be effective worldwide.

Graham was ousted after the club's directors had studied the findings of the commission of inquiry's interim report. He vowed to "vigorously contest" the decision and called for a "full and open" inquiry, which the FA granted yesterday by saying it would now begin its own investigation. Graham has always maintained that the money - which he has repaid to the club - was an unsolicited gift from the Norwegian agent, Rune Hauge, who brokered the transfers to Arsenal of John Jensen and Pl Lydersen from Scandinavia.

In a statement, the FA said Graham had 21 days to respond to the charge. "The FA is still considering the evidence and we will be in touch with Arsenal shortly in connection with the facts surrounding this matter." Even though Graham is no longer employed in football, he can be the subject of sanctions preventing him returning to the game, and can also be fined for misdemeanours during his time at Highbury.

Johansson has said that in view of Arsenal's actions "it would be very difficult for the man [Graham] to get a new job. Our sanctions will follow when the English FA reports are on our table, though I am certain the English FA will take the necessary actions."

Ironically, Ince was back in action for Manchester United against Wimbledon last night at Selhurst Park - where he is accused of attacking Dennis Warren, a supporter, on 25 January in the mle that followed Eric Cantona's attack on another fan.

United will not be disciplining Ince at this stage, but that might change if he is found guilty - the player is to fight the charge. Neither is the FA to take immediate action, although there is a move within Lancaster Gate to take a tougher line with those in trouble off the field.

Dennis Wise withdrew from the England squad to face the Republic of Ireland last month after he was convicted of assaulting a taxi driver, but there are some officials who feel the FA should be seen to be taking the initiative in such matters.

The United manager, Alex Ferguson, has claimed his club felt "let down" by the FA when it extended United's end-of-season ban on Cantona by a further six weeks to 30 September. The Frenchman, who must also answer an assault charge at the same court as Ince, did not infringe his suspension by kicking off a charity game near Paris for the family of a young football supporter shot dead by a rival fan last month, Fifa, the world governing body, has ruled.

Ron Noades, the Crystal Palace chairman, has said that he ordered Chris Armstrong be left out of the side last week to save him from a six-month suspension.

Armstrong misses the Coca Cola Cup semi-final with Liverpool tonight as part of the rehabilitation period he must serve away from the game, after he tested positive for cannabis. "The implication was that if we did not agree [to Armstrong being left out of the FA cup replay with Watford] Chris could have been charged with bringing the game into disrepute and possibly banned for six months," Noades said on his return to London after a week's holiday in Portugal.

Birmingham are hoping to sign the 28-year-old Portuguese midfielder, Rui Estevez, on loan from Benfica, from whom they bought the highly rated winger, Jose Dominguez, last year.

Tottenham and Aston Villa have finalised new multi-million pound sponsorship deals. Villa will unveil their new shirt deal tomorrow and 24 hours later they will be followed by Spurs, who plan to announce "what is believed to be the biggest club sponsorship in British football" with a leading global technology company. Spurs are ending their 12-year association with Holsten, while Villa's two-year contract with Mller also expires this summer.