Football: Anfield board ponders options

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The Independent Online
LIVERPOOL'S monthly board meeting takes place tomorrow night, the directors meeting in an ambience that has been unknown at Anfield for 40 years. The chairman, David Moores, and his fellow directors know they are only a few more bad results away from some savage decisions.

Liverpool play Arsenal away on Sunday, on the horizon are Leeds, Nottingham Forest and Ipswich at home; Chelsea, Southampton and Sheffield Wednesday away.

The chief executive, Peter Robinson, is expected to say tomorrow that the directors are concerned about the club's position and that every effort will be made to improve it. Privately, the board is more or less agreed that Graeme Souness must be given a little longer to restore confidence; he has three years of his present contract remaining. To pay him up would cost around pounds 750,000 without a successor lined up to take over immediately. Replacement names are already being floated, such as Joe Jordan (Hearts) and Lou Macari (Stoke).

Souness will be given another last chance, too, in that money will be made available for at least one more big signing of an experienced player of proven ability in English football: Richard Jobson (Oldham Athletic), John Scales (Wimbledon) and Les Ferdinand (Queen's Park Rangers) are being mentioned.

The next 30 days are crucial. If Liverpool are in the bottom three of the Premier League at the end of February, changes will be made. The board has been upset by the way in which Liverpool have lost some recent matches and while it accepts that, with 11 major injuries, the team had to be constantly re-shaped, it remains unhappy about the comparative failure, at Anfield, of Souness's major investments: Dean Saunders, since transferred to a highly successful career with Aston Villa, and Mark Wright. Nor has Souness gained marks for his Scandinavian imports, Torben Piechnik and Stig Inge Bjornebye.

Arsenal have been fined pounds 5,250, plus pounds 500 costs, for breaching environmental codes during the building of their new North Stand. Following complaints from local residents, the club pleaded guilty at Highbury magistrates' court yesterday to breaching legal agreements involving out-of-hours work on the stand. The contractors, Norwest Holst, were fined pounds 9,000 plus pounds 500 costs.