Football: Battles ahead at Maine Road

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The Independent Online
MANCHESTER CITY are heading for a new power struggle, with the family of the late Stephen Boler, a former director, ready to sell their large stake in the club. The troubled Maine Road club may face more behind- the-scenes intrigue with the news that 28 per cent of the shares are about to come on to the market.

Boler left his sons in charge of his holding in City. They also have a say in where Peter Swales' old shares go. Now a scramble is about to start for a slice of the club that would give the buyer the whip hand, with a major, if not majority, holding.

The former chairman Francis Lee, who has kept his pounds 3.9m stake, could be interested in making a comeback, but would need big-money backers to get it right this time. Lee has returned to Maine Road for games despite being hounded out of the club by supporters, and he has told friends that he is waiting for his moment.

Mike McDonald, a life-long City fan, is now clear to bid after selling up at Sheffield United, where he was chairman. McDonald has tried and failed in the past to gain control, but is now in a better position to mount a takeover bid.

A Manchester solicitor Raymond Donn, who was looking for buyers for Boler's shares when the latter was alive, is also chasing outside backers. Donn has sent a dossier to prospective foreign investors looking for the money to finance a takeover.

Boler was asking for around 75p each for his 8,000,000 shares prior to his death - a total of pounds 6m that understandably scared off buyers. There could be a drop in the price, however, if the right buyers are found. The Boler family appear to want the shares to go to someone who could be a positive influence, rather than see more damaging power struggles at the club.

Bobby Robson's PSV Eindhoven are trying to rescue Alessandro Pistone from problems at Newcastle United. The former England manager is in contact with the Italian defender's agents about a pounds 2m deal to take Pistone to the Netherlands in the next few weeks.

The Newcastle manager, Ruud Gullit, may come out of retirement to honour one of the club's most celebrated former players. He is expected to play a part in Peter Beardsley's testimonial on 27 January.

John Hartson will appear before a Football Association disciplinary hearing on 2 February over his training ground assault on his West Ham team-mate, Eyal Berkovic, late last year.

The Southampton defender, Ken Monkou, has lost his appeal to the FA over the decision by the referee Dermot Gallagher to send him off in the FA Cup third-round tie at home to Fulham.Monkou will serve a three-match ban for the dismissal, starting this weekend against Liverpool at Anfield.