Football: Barcelona deadline for Robson

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The Independent Online
Managers were having a tough time again yesterday, with Oldham Athletic parting company with Graham Sharp and Barcelona giving Bobby Robson 15 days to improve results or pack his suitcase.

Sharp and his No 2, Colin Harvey, resigned after considering their position following the 3-0 defeat against Grimsby on Saturday. The result left Oldham bottom of the First Division and led to a 45-minute inquest in a locked dressing-room after the final whistle.

"We understand their reasons for resigning and there is no acrimony on either side," a club spokesman said.

The former Everton duo took over in November 1994 from Joe Royle, who ironically quit the Latics to become the manager at Goodison Park.

Andy Ritchie, the former Oldham striker now playing for Scarborough, is the supporters' choice to take over, but he may face opposition from Jimmy Nicholl, who was sacked by Millwall on Monday and Neil Warnock, shown the door at Plymouth Argyle last week.

The departure lounge at Barcelona airport could soon see Robson passing through clutching a one-way ticket. The former England manager had a five- hour meeting with club officials yesterday at which he was told to start winning games, beginning against Racing de Santander this weekend.

"I'm aware that people may be looking for a culprit, but I'm not afraid that that culprit may be me," said Robson, whose team trail leaders Real Madrid by eight points. A gap too wide for Barcelona, who are said to be considering replacing Robson with the Croat coach Tomislav Ivic or the club's assistant trainer, Carles Rexach, for the rest of the season while they step up negotiations to land the Ajax manager, Luis van Gaal.

Blackburn Rovers, who will be monitoring the Robson situation carefully, have been rejected by Marek Citko. The Polish striker, in a sudden display of altruism, cited personal issues and loyalty for turning down a pounds 2.75m transfer and staying with Widzew Lodz. "I am staying with the club to which I owe so much," he said. "I am not concerned with financial matters."

Arsenal have dismissed reports emanating from Italy that they had offered pounds 7m for the Lazio striker Giuseppe Signori, but confirmed that they are planning to extend Highbury's 38,000 capacity. Islington Council are to carry out a feasibility study.

The Reading keeper, Bobby Mikhailov, will not play again this season after a scan confirmed cruciate ligament damage to his left knee. The Bulgarian international, 34 today, was injured in a collision with Scott Sellars during Saturday's 3-2 victory at Bolton Wanderers.

A supporter, Rob Emery, is to seek pounds 200 compensation from the Football League in what is seen by many as a test case. He maintains that Norwich City's match at Tranmere Rovers last month should never have started because of fog. Emery, who endured a nine-hour, 500-mile round trip from Norfolk yet saw little of Norwich's 3-1 defeat, is demanding reimbursement for his time and travelling.