Football: Atkinson bids farewell again to Wednesday

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The Independent Online
By Clive White and Alan Nixon

RON ATKINSON is parting company with Sheffield Wednesday six months after returning to Hillsborough. Despite his insistence that he would be staying with Barnsley next season, their manager Danny Wilson remains favourite to succeed Atkinson.

In announcing their decision not to renew Atkinson's contract which expires on 31 May, the club said in a statement: "The board have given extensive consideration to future appointments and the development of the club's resources in line with other Premier League sides."

Atkinson, one of the most colourful characters in the game, returned to the club he had left to join Aston Villa six years earlier after David Pleat was sacked as it skirted the relegation zone following a series of heavy defeats.

As players returned from long-term injuries, the team went on a run that took Wednesday clear of trouble, although they slipped back towards the end of the season.

Wilson has long been earmarked for the Hillsborough job but the former Northern Ireland international is renowned for his loyalty and recently pledged to see out the remaining two years of his contract at Oakwell.

Steve Thompson is facing the sack as Sheffield United manager, just days after missing out on promotion when the Blades were beaten 3-2 by Sunderland in the semi-final play-off. They also reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup.

Everton's assistant manager Adrian Heath, who was previously No 2 at Bramall Lane, has already been approached about the possibility of taking over and could be installed this week. Lou Macari is another candidate for the job, admitting last week he had turned them down when Nigel Spackman was sacked.

Celtic managing director Fergus McCann put the seal on a week of acrimony by expressing reservations about ever appointing Wim Jansen, who resigned on Monday less than 48 hours after guiding Celtic to their first Premier Division title for a decade.

McCann said: "Maybe we should have insisted we wanted someone for three years and not gone for Wim. I had concerns about his background and the fact he did not have a record of staying long at clubs."

A crowd of 39,000 turned out for Paul McGrath's testimonial at Lansdowne Road yesterday, providing him with a cheque for pounds 600,000. Jack Charlton's all-star team defeated the Republic 3-2. Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern led the tributes to the 38-year-old former Manchester United and Aston Villa player.