Football: Bell threatens to sell Port Vale

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A DAY after sacking the long-serving John Rudge as manager, Port Vale's chairman threatened to sell the struggling First Division club if angry fans continued to vilify him and his family.

Bill Bell, a Potteries car dealer, was speaking to Radio Stoke after backing out of a press conference called to defend the decision to dismiss Rudge after 15 years. "As far as I'm concerned, I shan't take much flak," he said. "Otherwise I might join him [Rudge]. My wife has already had abuse on the phone. If that continues, I shall walk away as well."

Bell, who said that Vale are losing pounds 40,000 per week, acknowledged that the parting with Rudge had been "sad and traumatic". But he insisted there was "no alternative" other than to seek "a new face" after 12 defeats in 14 games and with attendances down to 5,500.

"It had to be done," Bell said. "We needed to stem the tide. The commitment on the field wasn't what the supporters or ourselves expected it to be. We had to do something because it's absolutely vital that we stay in this division."

A small huddle of reporters, and two television crews, had gathered. Bell, apparently startled by the level of interest, declined to address them. Before leaving Vale Park he was heckled by protesters who had waited in the rain to demand Rudge's reinstatement. One fan had earlier walked into the club's offices and handed in the family's seven season-tickets, saying: "We won't be coming again."

Bell also confirmed that he would be meeting Rudge to discuss Vale's offer of a post as director of football. Brian Horton, the Brighton manager and former Vale captain, is favourite to succeed Rudge after his chairman, Dick Knight, said he would not stand in his way.