Football: Celtic part company with Burns

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The Independent Online
Tommy Burns parted company with Celtic last night, paying for the club's failure to halt Rangers' charge to a ninth consecutive Scottish Premier Division title.

Burns brought only one trophy to Parkhead in three years in control, and his position was further weakened by the Scottish Cup semi-final defeat by Falkirk last week.

The club issued a statement announcing the decision "with regret", adding that Burns' contract, due to run until 13 July, would be honoured. "Tommy will be leaving immediately but we intend to discuss with him our future plans and we hope he may be able to assist the club in a consultancy assignment as we make the transition to a new football management structure," the statement said.

Gianfranco Zola is unlikely to play for Chelsea before the FA Cup final in a fortnight's time, following his request to be taken off after 55 minutes of Italy's World Cup win over Poland in midweek because of his nagging hamstring injury, which he had a scan on yesterday.

Although Ruud Gullit, the Chelsea manager, stressed that this was just a precaution and that the problem is not serious, he has decided to rest Zola until the Wembley meeting with Middlesbrough on 17 May.

Zola's absence is not the only problem for Gullit, who has several other players doubtful for today's Premiership match with Leeds. Defender Steve Clarke will not be risked with his back problem, while Franck Leboeuf is suspended. However, goalkeeper Kevin Hitchcock is back in the squad and both Roberto Di Matteo and Dan Petrescu are fit after international duty.

Uefa intends to ease Europe's congested international programme by ordering national teams to play some matches back-to-back. The European governing body's executive committee will consider a system of double-header games to be introduced on a compulsory basis, which means a national team will play two World Cup or European Championship qualifying games in a 10-day period.

The body wants to force domestic leagues to suspend their programmes for certain weekends so that 10 national games can be fitted in. Most major leagues do this voluntarily, but this means the club v country conflict would be removed.

Ronnie Whelan will learn next week whether he is to stay as manager of relegated Southend. Vic Jobson, the club's chairman, said: "Ronnie's contract contains a clause that in the event of relegation he can be dismissed on a month's notice. But I will sit down and discuss things with him once the season is over."

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