Football: Chelsea dismiss threat

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THE Chelsea chairman, Ken Bates, is convinced that his planned purchase of Stamford Bridge will go ahead despite the landlords, Cabra, opening negotiations with a third party.

Bates has battled for 10 years for the freehold of the prime near 12-acre site - and it looked as though the long-running saga had finally been resolved when he agreed a pounds 13m deal with Cabra during the summer.

But yesterday Cabra said no satisfactory conclusion had been reached with Bates and that they were pursuing an alternative plan to sell both the Bridge and Fulham's Craven Cottage 'to a financially reputable third party which has no connection with Chelsea'.

Chelsea, however, are clearly not worried by yesterday's developments and their managing director, Colin Hutchinson, said: 'We are very relaxed about a positive outcome.'

Cabra's original deal with Chelsea involved Fulham moving in but the Football League club said they were not interested. However, Fulham's lease expires next May and it remains to be seen whether or not the plan is revived.

By then Bates, who owns more than 29 per cent of Cabra, clearly believes that he will be in full control at the Bridge, where he has plans for a vast redevelopment. Bates bought Chelsea, minus the freehold, for a knock-down pounds 200,000 in 1982 and has been chasing ground ownership ever since.

Alvin Martin, given a free transfer by West Ham last season, yesterday had his superb start to the season rewarded by inclusion in the Barclays League First Division squad to meet the Italian League Serie B side at Bristol City next week.

Bryan Gunn could be back in Premier League action for Norwich City on Saturday after making an unexpected return to training. The Scottish international goalkeeper had been given extended leave following the death at the weekend of his two-year-old daughter, Francesca, from leukaemia and City were looking at Liverpool's Mike Hooper as a temporary replacement.

Birmingham City are giving a trial to 25-year-old Leonardo Morruci, striker with the Italian League leaders, Torino.

Morruci has been with the club for five years and has made three senior appearances this season, but as Bill Coldwell, Birmingham's general manager, explained: 'He is now surplus to requirements because Torino have their foreign stars Carlos Aguilera and Walter Casagrande and they are looking to loan him out.'

John Charles is recovering in hospital after suffering a heart attack. The 60-year- old former Leeds United, Juventus and Wales player - known as 'the Gentle Giant' - was taken ill at a sporting dinner in York on Monday night. He is being detained in the coronary care unit at York District Hospital who yesterday described his condition as 'satisfactory'.

BARCLAYS LEAGUE SQUAD (v Italian Serie B at Ashton Gate, Bristol City, on Wednesday, 21 October, 7.30pm): Wright (Newcastle), Miklosko (West Ham); Kerslake (Swindon), Minto (Charlton), Calderwood (Swindon), Martin (West Ham), Awford (Portsmouth), Wassall (Derby), O'Brien (Newcastle), Magilton (Oxford), Peacock (Newcastle), M Allen (West Ham), Cole (Bristol City), Stewart (Bristol Rovers), Bull (Wolves), Maskell (Swindon).

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