Football: Graham's move imminent

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GEORGE GRAHAM'S appointment as the new manager of Tottenham is likely to be confirmed within the next three days, although no announcement will be made until Alan Sugar, the Spurs chairman, returns from a secretive business trip to Los Angeles. There has been speculation Sugar will have meetings in the United States today with a potential buyer for the club - possibly a multi-national media company - but a spokesman for Sugar said the nature of the trip was so clandestine he could not confirm any details.

Two weeks ago, Sugar turned down a bid of pounds 85m for Tottenham from ENIC - a company which specialises in football club investments - because he values the club at closer to pounds 200m. Whether his meetings today will see Spurs in the hands of new owners, or whether they are merely speculative forays, there is little doubt Graham is close to being brought in to replace Christian Gross, sacked three weeks ago.

David Pleat, the acting Tottenham manager, confirmed on Wednesday that an approach had been made to lure Graham from his job at Leeds. "Mr. Sugar has made an approach to Leeds for Mr. Graham," Pleat said. "The chairman is in dialogue with the Leeds chairman. Having made the approach, we hope it will come to fruition."

Leeds issued a statement yesterday confirming a move for Graham was being discussed. "It is true discussions have been going on between the clubs," the statement said. "There is no truth in reports he has already agreed to take charge," it added, although Graham's move seems increasingly certain.

Sugar and Peter Ridsdale, the Leeds chairman, had planned to meet - possibly to cement the terms of Graham's move - before their sides play each other in the Premiership tomorrow. Whether that meeting will take place depends on whether Sugar is back from the United States in time. He flew to Los Angeles yesterday, has meetings today, and could still be back in time for the game. If he cannot be back in London fast enough, the deal could be finalised on Sunday, and Graham could be in charge early next week. "Nothing will happen while [Sugar] is away," said Sugar's spokesman.

Graham said yesterday he will definitely still be the Leeds manager for the next two days. "I will be taking charge of training again today and I will be in charge of Leeds on Saturday against Spurs," he said. "It's a match I'm looking forward to."

Whether that is because it will be his last before moving south remains to be seen, but it seems the only question is when precisely Graham will move, not if. He may choose Leeds' Uefa Cup first-round, second-leg tie against Maritimo on Tuesday as his final match in charge.

While speculation over Graham's future continued, Spurs' supporters were voicing concerns the move could be costly for the club. Mark Jacob, spokesman for the Tottenham Action Group, said: "Presumably, George Graham's compensation package [over pounds 1m will go to Leeds if the deal goes through] and Christian Gross' golden handshake will be part of the accounts and will show that the shareholders have been hit in the pocket."

If Tottenham secure Graham's services, the repercussions are likely to spread beyond White Hart Lane and Elland Road. Leeds were warned yesterday not to attempt to poach Gordon Strachan from Coventry if Graham does move to north London. Strachan helped Leeds to the Championship in 1992 and is still popular at the club. However, the Coventry chairman, Bryan Richardson, said: "We have had no approach, Gordon has a five-year contract here and I honestly do not think it is an issue. Unless there is a fall out between Gordon and ourselves there is no reason for him to leave."

Meanwhile yesterday, the Aston Villa manager, John Gregory, has said he will not stand by Mark Bosnich if the Australian admits to having used abusive language towards Everton supporters. Bosnich is alleged to have sworn at Everton supporters at the end of the goalless draw on August 16. "If that's the case there is no way I can support Mark," Gregory said.

The Football Association said yesterday that Villa's chairman, Doug Ellis, was "perfectly entitled" to publish Deadly!, his new autobiography, despite the recent furore over Glenn Hoddle's World Cup diary. An FA spokesman said: "He is a senior figure in football and we are not in the business of censorship." Ellis's conduct as a football club chairman comes within the FA's jurisdiction.