Football: Doubts persist over Francis' future

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The Independent Online
GERRY FRANCIS'S future with Queen's Park Rangers remained shrouded in uncertainty last night - despite an assurance by the chairman, Richard Thompson, that he wanted the manager to stay and had no plans to sell the club.

Francis, 42, revealed on Monday that Thompson had turned down his request to sign a new one-year contract, which in turn prompted reports that QPR were about to be sold to an American-based consortium.

Thompson sought to clarify the position yesterday, but in doing so passed up the opportunity to pledge emphatic support for the widely coveted Francis.

The QPR manager, a boyhood supporter and former captain of the club, has hinted that he might forsake football for a business career in the event of leaving Loftus Road.

'I'm not trying to sell - and that is the bottom line,' Thompson said. 'If a big offer came in out of the blue, then that's another story, but at the moment it's pure speculation. I don't like it, because even though it's water off a duck's back to me, I'm concerned about how it makes the staff and fans feel.'

In the latter respect, QPR followers may have hoped for less lukewarm backing from the chairman for his manager. 'It wasn't a snub, as some people have suggested,' Thompson said of his refusal to agree the deal suggested by Francis. 'Now that he's told me what he wants to do, I have to go away and work out what I want to do. We'll obviously have more discussions and hope to work something out.'

He added, somewhat mysteriously: 'I fully respect that Gerry was considering what he wanted to do, but in that case I had to consider the worst scenario - that he wanted to leave the club.'

Francis said last night: 'I'm very surprised by a number of things the chairman has now said but in a way I'm quite pleased.

'It is tremendous encouragement as far as I'm concerned and my reaction is that me and my staff will be available for a meeting any time, even tomorrow, to talk about contracts for next season.'

Arsenal's European Cup- Winners' Cup quarter-final first leg at Torino on 2 March will kick off at 5.30 pm to avoid clashing with live television coverage of Milan's Champions' League tie. Uefa's order of an afternoon kick-off for the Highbury leg on 16 March was described by Arsenal's managing director, Ken Friar, as 'a non-starter' because of the London rush hour and probable police objections. The game may now be played on 15 or 17 March.