Football: Goodison waits for Kenwright

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BILL KENWRIGHT yesterday moved to play down growing expectations that he has clinched a deal to take control of Everton.

The Goodison Park club's vice-chairman has been involved in top-level negotiations with the major shareholder, Peter Johnson. But Kenwright, a theatre impresario, said he has not yet officially tabled a bid for Johnson's 68 per-cent stake, or even part of it.

"I keep seeing people say that I have already lodged a bid and Peter is considering it. That is not true, I have not lodged a bid," Kenwright said. "I'm pretty close to lodging a bid and I'm in constant contact with Peter's advisors. But when that bid is lodged it is very important to me that it has a pretty good chance of success.

"And I'm not going to do that until I feel 95 per cent confident - you can never be 100 per-cent sure - that I am going to get the major shareholding."

It has been reported that Kenwright's consortium, which includes major financial institutions, has placed on the table a pounds 50m offer for around half of Johnson's share, and that an answer is expected by the end of the week. Kenwright said: "We mustn't get involved any more in speculation and the wrong kind of communication, that is terrible for Everton.

"I'm a fan and, believe me, I do know fans are out there like little birds in nests waiting for little drops of information. I know, I have been there with them for 53 years and I know exactly what it is like."

Kenwright added: "I feel bad, denying that I have made an offer, but the fans have got to know the truth. What I have been trying to do is to build a platform from which I can get Peter Johnson's shares, and look at the financial situation we are in and build for the future.

"That is taking time and there are lots of people involved, not only on Peter's side but my side too. This will be the biggest-ever Premier League club takeover, whether I do it or whether someone else comes along and does it. I know I have got to get it right.

"But the one thing I don't know is who else Peter Johnson is talking too. I have no idea whether there is anyone else out there. I read things about South African companies and Turkish companies, I don't know whether any of that is true. I have to just take my time and make my bid."

The Aston Villa goalkeeper, Mark Bosnich, is likely to make his comeback against Coventry City on 27 February - five months after injuring his shoulder against the Sky Blues at Highfield Road. Villa's manager, John Gregory, is also waiting to see if his central defender, Ugo Ehiogu, will need surgery to repair the fractured eye socket suffered in a clash with Newcastle's Alan Shearer.

Bosnich is stepping up his rehabilitation programme and the big test will come within a week, when he attempts to dive for the first time on the troublesome shoulder which required an operation in December. "Mark is doing most of the things a goalkeeper does, like handling and collecting crosses, and everything is going along fine from that point of view," said Gregory. "But the test will come when he starts diving around and going down on the shoulder. Then we will see if it is capable of standing up to that sort of pressure."