Football: Bates decides Webb is surplus to requirements: West London clubs climb aboard the managerial merry-go-round

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The Independent Online
DAVID WEBB had described Ken Bates as a 'Mary Poppins' figure compared with other bosses he had served, though the medicine the Chelsea chairman administered yesterday could not be sweetened by any amount of sugar. After three months attempting to prove he should be their manager long-term, Webb was told: 'Thanks but no thanks.'

Webb, who took over when Ian Porterfield was dismissed in February, began at Stamford Bridge with some promise, bags of enthusiasm and ideas, but over a 13-game trial fell just short of the results Bates was looking for as an indicator that there might be some silverware lurking around the corner.

A new opening for Webb might be available elsewhere in west London, after Brentford decided to follow relegation to the Second Division with a managerial change of their own, Phil Holder paying the price for a dreadful second half of the season in which they failed to win in any of 11 successive home games.

There are worse managerial records of five wins and four draws in three months, and undoubtedly Webb soon won the support of players and fans. However, Bates is known to want more flair from his team and he could decide the time is right to go for a younger man: Glenn Hoddle, Ray Wilkins or Gerry Francis, who could be relied on to restore a touch of style.

A week ago Bates travelled to Swindon to see their game with West Ham and it could be significant that yesterday's statement included the addendum that no announcement about a replacement could be expected for 'several weeks'. With Swindon involved in the play-offs any approach for Hoddle would have to go on hold.

Bates said: 'We wish to record our sincere thanks to David for his work since he took over as team manager. He halted the slide and also carried out an independent audit of the management and playing staff that has been both valuable and revealing to the board.'

Bates will also closely monitor events at Loftus Road where Francis is negotiating with the Queen's Park Rangers chairman, Richard Thompson, about an extension to his contract, and Ray Wilkins is considering whether to extend his playing career into his 38th year.

Although Holder received board- level support for his carrying on at Brentford, the recent return of Martin Lange from America to resume his post as club chairman seems to have cooked his goose.

In his first season Holder took the club to the Third Division play-offs and last year guided them to the championship. Neither the assistant manager, Wilf Rostron, nor the youth-team manager, Joe Gadston, have been offered new contracts.

Nottingham Forest expect to reveal their new manager tomorrow and it appears to be a straight fight between Martin O'Neill, who has just led Wycombe Wanderers to the non-League double, and David Pleat.

The Forest chairman, Fred Reacher, met O'Neill yesterday morning at the last of eight interviews for Brian Clough's job.

Barnet were fined pounds 25,000 by the Football League yesterday for an irregular payment to their striker, Paul Showler, and warned that one more breach of rules would see them expelled.

Rhodri Giggs, the 16-year-old brother of Manchester United's Ryan, is poised to sign for the Third Division club, Torquay United. The right winger, who had a trial with Manchester City, is one of nine youngsters offered two-year apprenticeships by Torquay. The youth coach, Paul Compton, said: 'We haven't offered Rhodri a contract because of his name. He's got a lot to learn but he does have real talent.'

Last night's football, page 35