Football: Arsenal suffer pounds 5m plunge in profits

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ARSENAL'S PROFITS fell by pounds 5m last year, increasing the urgency either to build an extension to their Highbury ground (capacity 38,500) or relocate to a new stadium.

The club's annual report, released yesterday, showed that turnover increased from pounds 40.4m to pounds 48.6m but pre-tax profits fell from pounds 7.1m to pounds 2.1 in the year to May. One unnamed director took a five per cent cut in pay, but still took home pounds 525,000 in wages.

In a statement that accompanied the figures, the chairman, Peter Hill Wood, said: "We are actively looking at a wide range of options, including redevelopment of Highbury and relocation [to increase capacity to help offset rising costs such as transfer fees and wages]."

Middlesbrough's manager, Bryan Robson, has denied suggestions that Paul Gascoigne went on a drinking binge after his side's win at Wimbledon on Tuesday. It was reported that the England midfielder had been given permission to attend a showbusiness event in London and that the evening turned into a night of excess.

Robson said: "They [the press] build the top players up to be knocked down again and you get this see-saw effect. When people are criticising, they'll leave it alone for a couple of weeks. Then they try to build the player up again and try to knock him back down. Gazza's had that all his career, and none of it bothers me.

"All I do is judge Paul Gascoigne on the way he is around the club, the way he's training and the way he's playing, and I'm very happy with that."

Robson has set up a pounds 2.5m deal for the 17-year-old Argentinian striker Claudio Marinelli, one of Boca Juniors' top young players. Marinelli, also a target for Manchester United, was a major success in Boca's recent tour of Britain.

Derby County were last night hoping to conclude the on-off transfer of another Argentinian striker, Esteban Fuertes. The club were waiting for clearance from the Argentinian FA after two clubs had claimed ownership and there had been a dispute about an increase in the fee from pounds 2m. Derby were unwilling to pay the new asking price of pounds 3.25m for the 26-year-old but it seems a compromise may be near.

Gary Charles played a secret trial for West Ham yesterday hoping to secure a pounds 1m move from Benfica. The former Aston Villa defender turned out against Barnet in a closed-doors game watched by the club's manager, Harry Redknapp.

Leeds United are trying to agree a price with Southampton for the Norwegian striker Egil Ostenstad. Leeds have had an initial pounds 1.7m offer rejected. The Saints are looking for pounds 3m, but a compromise figure is likely as both sides want to do business quickly. Southampton's manager, Dave Jones, will sell to finance a move for Birmingham City striker Peter Ndlovu. The Saints have completed the signing of midfielder Trond-Egil Soltvedt from Coventry and are expected to give him a debut on Sunday against Newcastle. The Norway international, who has signed a three-year contract, cost pounds 300,000 and will replace the injured Chris Marsden.

Francis Jeffers is set to play for Everton tomorrow after peace was declared in his contract row. Jeffers has withdrawn his transfer request after talks and he will get his current deal reviewed. The Everton manager, Walter Smith, introduced the 18-year-old striker as a 71st-minute substitute in Wednesday night's 3-0 defeat at Aston Villa.

"We're pleased that the situation has been resolved and he can get on with what he is good at, and that's his football," Smith said. Jeffers is almost certain to play alongside Kevin Campbell tomorrow at Tottenham.

Leeds United's Scottish international midfielder David Hopkin has signed a new four-year deal which will keep him at United until 2003.

Newcastle United appear to have reached a dead end in their efforts to sign the Belgian goalkeeper Geert de Vligier.

United's chairman Freddy Shepherd headed a party which flew out to Brussels on Wednesday hoping to finalise a pounds 500,000 move for the 27-year-old Anderlecht goalkeeper. A club source said that no deal was done, however, and that there seems little chance of further progress.