Football: Blackburn persuade Hendry to stay

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The Independent Online
Colin Hendry is staying with Blackburn Rovers and will turn down the opportunity to join Rangers or Newcastle United. The Scotland centre-back has had heart-to-heart talks with Jack Walker, the Rovers owner, and has been persuaded to remain at his adopted home.

Hendry had grown restless at Rovers this season because of their disappointing campaign, and interest from the Scottish champions and Newcastle fuelled speculation that he was about to leave Ewood Park. However, the prospect of a coaching post and a promise that the club will make up pounds 50m available to the new manager, Roy Hodgson, when he arrives in the summer has been enough to convince Hendry to stay. He will commit himself to a new contract which will take his earnings to about pounds 12,000 a week.

Football Association of Ireland officials are backing the national manager, Mick McCarthy, who is asking critics to keep "giving him a fair chance" despite the 3-2 World Cup defeat in Macedonia.

Pat Quigley, the FAI's president, said McCarthy had the full support of his association and would be kept on for at least the two years of his contract, signed in March. Disillusioned Irish fans are ready with a campaign to put McCarthy's job under pressure, but the former Ireland centre-back, who is took over from the hero-worshipped Jack Charlton, seems secure.

"Mick has got the difficult job, because we no longer have the Paul McGraths and people like that at the stage where they were top of the pops, and it's going to take time to blend together all the new players he has had to bring in," Quigley said. "But Mick knows himself what lies in front of him, and he's only half-way through his contract. I would be very sad if people didn't give him a fair chance."

Scottish fans have no reason to worry about their national coach, Craig Brown, who has steered Scotland to a seven-point lead in their World Cup qualifying group after the victory over Austria at Celtic Park. Their problem lies with television. BBC Scotland confirmed yesterday that there will be no live coverage of the Group Four match against Sweden in Gothenburg on 30 April. Only highlights of the potentially decisive fixture will be shown.

"We try to provide Scotland supporters with comprehensive coverage when budget constraints allow," a BBC spokesman said. "But we have to make decisions on the funding available to us and we have already shown live four games out of six in Scotland's World Cup group. We will have live radio coverage of the match in Sweden and an extended highlights package from Gothenburg," a BBC spokesman said.

Paul Gascoigne could be back in a Rangers jersey within a fortnight. The England midfielder has had the plaster removed from the ankle he injured in a six-a-side tournament in Amsterdam at the end of January and is back in training. He hopes to make a first-team return against Raith on 15April.

Raith will also provide the opponents when Tommy Johnson makes his Celtic debut on Saturday, but his transfer from Aston Villa is still under scrutiny. The agent, Blair Morgan, insists Celtic are in the clear over their pounds 2.4m move for Johnson despite allegations that an unlicensed agent, Kevin Mason, was involved in the deal.

Fifa, the governing body of world football, faxed the Scottish Football Association to start an inquiry into agents involved in the transfer last week. Fifa fined Celtic for using an unlicensed agent in the signing of Alan Stubbs from Bolton last summer.

"We have received a fax from Fifa which we have passed on to Celtic for their comments," an SFA spokesman, David Findlay, said. Celtic insist the deal was brokered only by Blair Morgan, who holds a Fifa licence. He said yesterday: "Kevin Mason was not involved at any stage."