Football: Ambitious Nigeria approach Keegan

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The Independent Online
Newcastle supporters basking in the seven-goal thumping of Tottenham will be jolted by the news that manager Kevin Keegan has been offered the chance to follow Terry Venables and guide a foreign country to the World Cup finals in France.

With Venables in charge of Australia, Keegan and the former Leeds manager Howard Wilkinson have been approached by Nigeria, who are seeking a high- profile European following the resignation of coach Jo Bonfrere in October.

"We have got in touch with high-profile managers like Kevin Keegan, Howard Wilkinson, Louis van Gaal and Johan Cruyff to select one for the vacant position of manager," Danladi Bako, the assistant director of the Nigerian sports ministry, said.

The Dutchman Bonfrere quit alleging poor treatment and interference by the country's football authorities, but not before he had guided Nigeria, nicknamed the "Super Eagles", to gold at the Olympics in Atlanta where they beat Argentina in the final.

Van Gaal is the coach of Dutch champions Ajax, while Cruyff and Wilkinson are without clubs, the latter having parted company with Leeds in September.

"Our need for a high-profile coach is because we are also a high-profile soccer playing nation," Bako said. "It will be disastrous and criminal if we fail to qualify for the 1998 World Cup in France for our second World Cup outing."

Whoever accepts the challenge will find himself in Africa's most populous country of 100 million, where football is followed with passionate interest.

Bako also confirmed that the Nigerian-born former Wimbledon and Aston Villa striker John Fashanu had been asked to help persuade a manager to work in Nigeria.

On a more mundane level, Third Division Hartlepool United have confirmed Mick Tait as their manager until the end of the season. The 40-year-old former Portsmouth midfielder has guided the team to five wins in eight League games since becoming caretaker manager in November following the departure of Keith Houchen.

Milan are offering their players a bonus for coming second. Eight points adrift of leaders Juventus, Milan will pay pounds 40,000 a man if the team finish second, which this season secures a place in the Champions' League.