Football: Chelsea fend off interest in Hoddle: Chelsea chairman determined to hold on to the club's player-manager - Dundee United go in search of another cup upset

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

CHELSEA will strenuously resist any attempts to lure Glenn Hoddle away from Stamford Bridge.

Fears that he could be tempted to leave were raised by the sacking of Arsene Wenger as coach of Hoddle's former club Monaco, who were rumoured to want the fomer England international to return to the Mediterranean coast.

Wenger was the coach who signed Hoddle in 1987 to launch his glittering three-year career in the French league. Hoddle left Tottenham to try his luck abroad, believing that his skills were never fully appreciated in the English game.

But he always retained a strong desire to become a successful manager in the domestic game and, after injury problems curtailed his playing career with Monaco, he accepted the job at Chelsea at the beginning of last season and still features occasionally as a player.

The rich French club would be able to offer Hoddle a considerable financial incentive to head south again, probably promising far more than the pounds 10,000 a week he received from them as a player.

But Hoddle is only half-way through a four-year agreement with Chelsea, and the club's chairman, Ken Bates, insists: 'He is happy here and can stay as long as he likes.'

Bates finally believes he has the manager to take Chelsea to glory after years of mediocrity at Stamford Bridge and will battle tenaciously to keep him.

Hoddle proved his credentials as a manager last season by sticking to his principles of open, attractive football, despite a flirtation with the Premiership relegation zone.

He eventually took Chelsea to the FA Cup final, where they were defeated as Manchester United headed for the double. But they still qualified for the European Cup- Winners' Cup, their first appearance in Europe for 22 years, and in the first round, first leg last week they won 4-2 at home against the Czech club Viktoria Zizkov.

Chelsea, who meet the Second Division strugglers Bournemouth tonight in the second round of the Coca-Cola Cup, go to the Czech Republic for the second leg of their European tie next Thursday, but they still do not know the exact location.

The game has twice been switched, after Uefa ruled Viktoria could not play it in their own tiny stadium just outside Prague. Chelsea's chief executive, Colin Hutchinson, flew to the Czech Republic yesterday in an attempt to find a final solution to a problem that threatens to throw next week's travelling plans into chaos.

Liverpool's Neil Ruddock has escaped punishment from the FA for allegedly elbowing Manchester United's Eric Cantona last weekend. Ruddock was apparently caught red-handed by the TV cameras using his arm on Cantona in Saturday's Premiership match between the sides at Old Trafford.

United were furious, but the former Tottenham defender escaped a booking and the FA have said they would not be taking the matter any further.