Football: Birchenall plays down referee jibe

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(First Edition)

LEICESTER's public relations officer, Alan Birchenall, yesterday defended his controversial remarks aimed at Keith Cooper, the referee in charge of Filbert Street's Premiership match with Coventry on Monday.

Cooper was booed off after dismissing the Coventry defender Gary Gillespie and Leicester's Jimmy Willis, which prompted a half-time outburst from Birchenall.

Over the PA system he said: 'The first lad deserved a yellow card and as for the second, I've seen it on the box. It's a bloody joke. We are going to end up with only four players left on each side. It's about contact for Christ's sake.'

But Birchenall claimed: 'I tried to lighten the atmosphere and bring a bit of humour into the situation with a crack or two. In any case, my comments were made as an individual.'

Keith Burkinshaw, the West Bromwich Albion manager, has ruled out resignation as he comes under increasing pressure. The Hawthorns club are second from bottom of the First Division and were beaten 4-1 by Stoke on Sunday.

Burkinshaw, Albion's sixth manager in the last eight years, said: 'I will not walk away. Unless the board allow a manager to settle the situation down for a few years, the club will not go anywhere but downhill. In my opinion the club has to bite the bullet in the bad times.'

The England international winger Tony Daley has moved a step closer to making his first-team debut for Wolves by resuming training after a knee operation two months ago.

Sheffield Wednesday's new Swedish international midfield player Klas Ingesson is expected to be out of action for about six weeks following an operation on a torn stomach muscle.

The retirement from international football of Milan's Franco Baresi has been announced by the Italian national coach, Ariggo Sacchi, on the eve of the country's European Championship qualifying match against Estonia. 'He was the most committed player of the team, under my direction,' Sacchi said. Baresi, 34, had won 81 caps.

Thirty-four Italian clubs are under investigation by a police financial unit after allegations of tax irregularities at many Serie A and B clubs.