Football: Agent Hearn kicks off

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The Independent Online
WITH the kind of boast that is commonplace in the world from which he comes, the boxing promoter, Barry Hearn, announced his arrival as a football agent ('please, sports promoter or manager, if you don't mind') by declaring yesterday: 'At the end of three years I'd be surprised if I don't have 90 per cent of the Premier League players under contract.'

Hearn, who started off in snooker as Steve Davis's agent, is expanding his Matchroom empire and moving into a team sport for the first time. In true pugilistic fashion, he came out swinging, in particular at the Professional Footballers' Association, whom he believed were exceeding their authority in handling transfer negotiations. It was, he said, 'below the belt'.

He complained of a lack of professionalism among footballers, which he would endeavour to correct. 'If my fighters behaved like some of them I'd sling them out in the street,' he said. 'Work hard? They don't do anything.'

Allowances, though, had to be made for the temperamental talent, he said. 'Jimmy White's got the right balance of being a nutter and can still perform; Alex (Higgins) is a shambles.' Hearn said that several years ago he declined an offer to act as agent for Paul Gascoigne. 'You'd have to put him up against a wall every now and then and give him a slap around.'

Chelsea will resist any attempts to lure Glenn Hoddle away from Stamford Bridge. Fears that the manager could be lured away were raised by the sacking of Arsene Wenger as coach of Hoddle's former club, Monaco, who were rumoured to want the former England international to return. But Hoddle is only half- way through a four-year agreement and his chairman, Ken Bates, insists: 'He is happy here and can stay as long as he likes.'

Gheorghe Popescu, the Romanian defender whose pounds 2.3m signing from PSV Eindhoven was completed yesterday, will make his Tottenham debut in tonight's Coca-Cola Cup tie against Watford at Vicarage Road, the scene of Jurgen Klinsmann's first bow for the club in August.

Neil Ruddock has escaped punishment for allegedly elbowing Eric Cantona during Liverpool's defeat at Manchester United last weekend.