Football: Boro pushing to reverse fortunes

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There was confusion yesterday over whether Middlesbrough had lodged an appeal with Football Association against the three points taken away by the Premier League after their failure to fulfil their fixture at Blackburn four days before Christmas.

The club's chairman, Steve Gibson, and his legal advisers have spent the 10 days since the landmark verdict of the League's disciplinary commission deciding the grounds on which they will seek to overturn the punishment. The FA said Boro had lodged their intention to appeal, but a statement from the club's solicitor, Simon Ledbrooke, suggested no firm decision had yet been made on the matter. The statement rejected as "unfair" criticism of the decision to postpone the game. The club also claimed the transcript of the original hearing, on 14 January, had yet to be made available and that, without seeing that, no decision on an appeal could be made.

Boro had the points docked and were fined pounds 50,000 after calling off the match at Ewood Park at barely 24 hours' notice. Their manager, Bryan Robson, claimed 23 players were ruled out of the game through sickness, injuries or suspensions. The FA was not persuaded by the club's argument at the original hearing.

Robson is also trying to ease another of the pressures on the Premiership's bottom club by giving Fabrizio Ravanelli, the club's leading scorer, the benefit of the doubt over comments recently attributed to the Italian.

"I've got no problems with Fabrizio," Robson said, adding that the striker should keep any comments within the confines of the club. "He aired his views on the club and, as far as I was concerned, that was it."

Another club facing problems, Manchester City, have been given a lift by the decision of shareholders to support a new rights issue that could bring in pounds 10.8m. City's new manager, Frank Clark, is keen to strengthen his squad and could make the Leeds defender Paul Beesley his first transfer target.

Nottingham Forest's shareholders do not now look likely to be able to vote on a club takeover as quickly as they expected. A pounds 24m bid for the club by the Nigel Wray-Irving Scholar-Phil Soar consortium is now in doubt. They insisted their offer must be voted on by the shareholders by 13 February, but now Forest have angered the consortium by not calling an EGM of share- holders until 24 February.

Brighton supporters groups have stepped up their campaign for the FA to act against the ailing Third Division club's board by sending it a solicitor's letter. They claim Albion's directors have infringed FA rules and escaped punishment. Fans are asking Lancaster Gate officials to respond by next Thursday.

Roy Sproson, who served Port Vale for nearly 30 years as player, coach and manager, has died aged 66. He made 761 League appearances for his only club between 1950 and 1971, helping them reach the FA Cup semi-finals and win the Third Division (North) championship in 1954. After three years as manager he was sacked in 1977 and never returned to Vale Park.