Football: Ellis backs Gregory to rescue Villa's season

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The Independent Online
DOUG ELLIS, the Aston Villa chairman, has re-affirmed his support for his manager John Gregory - and is also hoping that Wednesday's Worthington Cup defeat of Southampton will mark the start of an upturn in fortunes.

Speculation has been rife that Gregory's 21-month reign has been under threat after Villa collected just three points from eight Premiership matches. But the 4-0 demolition of the Saints has eased the tension and now Villa, who will visit West Ham in the quarter- finals, are looking for an improvement in their league fortunes when they entertain Newcastle tomorrow.

Ellis said: "I have been supporting the Villa manager. I always have done. I hope Wednesday's result will turn the tide because it is something we have wanted for several weeks.

"In fairness we have been playing quite well and losing. The collective spirit within the dressing room has been good but we haven't had the breaks for one reason or another.

"On Wednesday we did everything that was necessary. We worked terribly hard and got the goals. It will be even better if we can also win against Newcastle on Saturday."

Gregory insisted: "I have not been getting the support from the media but the chairman has been terrific. He has kept in constant touch with me over the last couple of weeks, when the flak has started to fly around. He has put his arm around me and basically said: `We are in it together, we are a partnership'. Our relationship has been just the same as it was on day one when I came here 21 months ago."

Paul Gascoigne's adviser, Mel Stein, has moved quickly to deny speculation that the midfielder is set to quit English football for the United States.

The former England midfielder, 32, has failed to command a regular place in Bryan Robson's Middlesbrough side this season, but Stein insists his client is remaining at the Riverside Stadium.

"It is absolute nonsense. We have had no approaches whatsoever from MLS [Major League Soccer]; nor, as far as we are aware, have Middlesbrough Football Club," Stein said yesterday.

Middlesbrough have also denied any US link. "There is no truth in it whatsoever," said a club spokesman, Dave Allen. "Paul is under contract until the end of next season. He is a Middlesbrough player and will remain a Middlesbrough player."

Huddersfield Town have vowed to seek compensation over what they have described as a "ludicrous" and "disgraceful" refereeing performance that they believe may have robbed them of a money-spinning appearance in the last eight of the Worthington Cup.

The Terriers' chairman, Ian Ayre, is fuming over referee Jeff Winter's decision not to award Huddersfield a 90th-minute penalty in their side's 2-1 extra-time defeat at home to Wimbledon on Tuesday night, and also by the referee's subsequent explanation to manager Steve Bruce.

Ayre and Bruce were at a loss to understand why Huddersfield were not given a spot-kick when they believed Clyde Wijnhard had been fouled in the opposition's penalty area. But what angered the chairman even more were Winter's comments to Bruce after the final whistle.

"He said that, while he had seen the incident and agreed it would have been a penalty, he had not given it because their player was fouled by Wijnhard before he then wrestled him to the ground," Ayre said yesterday. "That being the case, our view is that he should have given the foul - but he did not give either.

"For him to come out and say what he has is disgraceful. Two wrongs do not make a right. I think the referee needs to be put in his place for this. We are speaking to our solicitors. Perhaps there is an element of compensation here."

Marcus Gayle has given his seal of approval to Egil Olsen's Wimbledon regime by pledging his future to the club.

The Dons' striker has signed an extension to his current contract that will keep him at Selhurst Park until 2003, despite being linked with a move to other Premiership clubs.

The Raith Rovers manager, John McVeigh, has left the Scottish First Division club by mutual consent. He took over only at the start of the season after Jimmy Nicholl and Alex Smith were dismissed by the Kirkcaldy side. The assistant manager Peter Hetherston has taken temporary charge.

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