Football: Cole calls for Hoddle showdown

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The Independent Online
ANDY COLE'S business manager, Paul Stretford, has urged Glenn Hoddle to call the Manchester United striker to talk over his international future.

Cole and Stretford were angered by Hoddle's comments about his omission from the England squad and the forward had made his distress public. Now Stretford wants his client and the England coach to make their peace.

"Andy has put in his statement what he wants Glenn Hoddle to do," he said. "That is, the door is open and he knows where Andy is and if he wants to give him a call and tell him man to man where he has gone wrong, he would be more than happy to take that call and have that discussion."

Stretford has sent a letter of complaint to the Football Association's chief executive, Graham Kelly, but he is not expecting an apology after Hoddle claimed the striker had not improved sufficiently to be selected.

"I don't think the England manager is there to apologise," Stretford said. "What I am doing and what I'm not doing will remain a private issue, but I feel strongly enough about what has been said about my client to be 100 per cent supportive of him and assist him in the manner in which he is conducting himself now."

Stretford insisted that Cole was still smarting from Hoddle's comments and felt he had to tell his side of the story to protect his professional pride.

"Andy felt he had to say what he had to say to justify himself and his own credibility as a top professional player," Stretford said. "Andy is hurt at the way things have been handled regarding the manner in which the England team manager has discussed him after not selecting him. Therefore he feels `why discuss them and make those points?' To be honest, he is not someone that does talk. He has carried a lot of pressure and unfair statements about him and has handled himself impeccably. So you can understand how hurt he is to come out and say something of this nature."

The board of Manchester United PLC can expect a torrid time tonight when they face with rank and file shareholders for the first time since they recommended acceptance of BSkyB's takeover bid. Shareholding supporters are ready to air their views at the club's annual meeting even though discussion of the pounds 623m buy-out is not on the agenda.

Andy Walsh, chair of the Independent Manchester United Supporters' Association, says fans have been waiting for the chance to confront the board.

"I think there are a lot of questions that need to be answered," he said. "Neither the board nor Sky have at any stage said why the takeover will be good for Manchester United. No one has said what Sky can do for Manchester United that the club could not do on its own.

"The disdain with which the board have treated the fans and other shareholders has been staggering. They have shown a complete lack of respect for the very people who have made the club what it is today. There will be plenty of shareholders voicing their concerns and demanding answers from the board which they have not been willing to give over the last two months."

Arsenal have signed William Huck from Monaco on a one-year contract. The 19-year-old midfielder, who was a free agent, impressed the club's manager, Arsene Wenger, during a recent trial at Highbury.

Wenger was also reported last night to be in pursuit of Internazionale's Serie A striker Nwankwo Kanu. The Arsenal manager is thought to be keen to set up a loan deal for the Nigerian international until the end of the season.

Leeds United have made an inquiry for the Celtic and Scotland midfield general, Paul Lambert. The Leeds manager, David O'Leary, is keen to sign Lambert and will be given the go-ahead if he agrees to the Scottish side's pounds 3m valuation.

O'Leary has been looking for someone to pull the strings since he arrived and has abandoned his attempt to bring David Batty back from Newcastle United.

Lambert is available at the right price and would be interested in a move to England. The former Borussia Dortmund player has been unhappy in Glasgow with a row involving the former general manager, Jock Brown, clouding his spell at the club.

Southampton are giving Michael Stensgaard a second chance of a goalkeeping career in the English game. Stensgaard, who signed for Saints yesterday from FC Copenhagen, was forced to retire after a freak injury at Liverpool when he put his shoulder out trying to catch a falling ironing board.

After a year out, he made a comeback with Copenhagen and featured against Chelsea in their recent European tie. Southampton are paying a nominal fee and Liverpool will also qualify for compensation after a settlement was made when Stensgaard left them following his injury.

"I have been aiming for this day over the past couple of years," Stensgaard said. "I was heartbroken to leave Liverpool, but I will take my chance now with Southampton."