Football: BBC apologises to Dalglish for Hill comments

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The Independent Online
While Bobby Robson revealed that he had turned down the offer of a five- year contract to manage Newcastle United, one of the other prime candidates to succeed Kevin Keegan was given a grovelling apology by the BBC yesterday.

The apology was made to Kenny Dalglish after Jimmy Hill expressed doubts over his suitability for the Newcastle job. The credentials of Dalglish, who guided both Liverpool and Blackburn Rovers to the championship, were questioned by Hill on BBC 2's Sport on Friday programme. Hill cast doubt over whether Dalglish should be in the running for the job because of his record of suddenly leaving clubs.

Dalglish is one of several contenders for the post and doubts about his ability to deal with pressure have been widely voiced. The former Scotland international left Anfield and Ewood Park unexpectedly.

However, a call was made to the BBC protesting over Hill's comments. Before the end of the programme, the presenter, Helen Rollason, said "sorry" to Dalglish. In a prepared statement, she praised Dalglish's achievements in management and said that he remains a contender. Hill had left the studio by that point.

The BBC refused to reveal the identity of the caller. Its sports press officer, Jenny Hickman, said: "The question of whether Kenny called in or not is for him to confirm."

She added: "We hope that the apology for an earlier remark has been accepted. It obviously was not meant to be taken badly. It was just a general discussion about the contenders for Keegan's job. There were a couple of remarks that did not sit too well and the presenter acknowledged that."

Robson, meanwhile, appears to have replaced Dalglish as Newcastle's preferred choice. However, the Barcelona coach said yesterday he had rejected a five-year contract - for now - after an approach by Newcastle officials in Spain.

"Newcastle are very flattering," Robson said. "It is home, it is a phenomenal club also, with a great wealth of people who are passionate about football. But you can only be in one place at one time.

"I have here a two-year contract which started last August It was a proud and privileged moment for me when I came to Barcelona. My thoughts are that I will remain here. There's great pressure, but I can handle that."

However, unconfirmed reports from Spain suggested last night that Newcastle had made a new offer and that Robson was to have talks with the Barcelona president, Jose Luis Nunez.

Another British coach working in Spain who has been linked with the Newcastle post, John Toshack, said yesterday that he did not know where he would be working after his current contract as coach of Deportivo de La Coruna expires in the summer.

"I have a contract here until June which I would expect under normal circumstances to fulfill," he said. "But then, to be perfectly honest, I don't know where I'll be working.

"I announced earlier this week that I probably wouldn't be renewing my contract when I finished this season and that's caused a little bit of upheaval here. People are maybe putting two and two together and coming up with five."

One man definitely out of contention for the post is the Aston Villa manager, Brian Little, who has signed a new five-year contract believed to worth around pounds 2m.

Les Ferdinand, the Newcastle striker, said yesterday that Keegan's decision to resign had not been made on the spur of the moment. "It was a decision that he had made over the last few months, a big decision and he had decided enough was enough," Ferdinand said.

Geordie backlash, page 25