Football: Hammam seeks help in buying back Dons

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The Independent Online
SAM HAMMAM has admitted that he made a mistake in selling his majority stake in Wimbledon two years ago and is searching for a backer to help him to buy it back from the Norwegian Kjell-Inge Rokke. The one condition is that the buyer should be "passionate about the football, not about the balance sheet".

Rokke owns roughly an 80 per cent stake in the club while Hammam, a partner- governor at Wimbledon, holds the rest.

Hammam was quoted on the club's official website yesterday as saying: "It would be great if someone buys the shares - as long as they are passionate about the football, not about the balance sheet. I can buy back some of the shares but I believe it is impossible for one person to run a club these days."

Hammam has admitted that his sale of the club was an error, because he now thinks that Rokke does not have the best interests of the football club at heart. "I just hope I can help Wimbledon find a way out of all this," he said.

He decided to take action after hearing that Rokke intended to sell the pick of the first-team squad to clear debts of about pounds 3m. However, Jan Petter Storevedt, an aide of Rokke's, has denied that the club's best players are to be sold. "We have no plans to sell Wimbledon's key players right now," he said. "But there are 31 players in the first-team squad - and that is six too many."

Storevedt said his team would go through the whole organisation with Hammam then make a report within a fortnight before reaching conclusions on cutting the playing staff. Hammam took the players on a two-day trip to Paris as a treat after Saturday's 5-0 victory over Watford at Selhurst Park.

Coventry, who have six experienced defenders injured, have completed the signing of Tomas Gustafsson, a Swedish international, from AIK Solna for an undisclosed fee. The full-back signed a three-and-a-half year contract after a medical.

The 26-year-old, who can play on either flank, is expected to make his debut in the Premiership at Liverpool on 18 December, because he was not signed in time to be eligible for Saturday's FA Cup tie at Norwich.

It was recommendations from two players - Roland Nilsson, the former Coventry defender, and the club's goalkeeper, Magnus Hedman - that helped persuade their manager, Gordon Strachan, to press ahead with the deal. For Gustafsson, it was advice from the former Arsenal winger Anders Limpar that was a key factor in his decision to sign.

"If you are thinking about going to a new club, then you ask for advice from people in the game you trust, and I spoke to Anders," he said. "When I told him about going to Coventry he said: `If Gordon Strachan is there you must go because he will improve your game and take it on to another level'.

"I also spoke with Roland and Magnus, who is really on top of his game at Coventry, and they were both positive about me moving - and also positive to Coventry about me."

Gustafsson's arrival does provide some relief for Strachan, who has been struggling to field a back four because of an injury crisis and has revealed he has no money for new players.

Sunderland's captain, Kevin Ball, could end his long association with the Wearside club and drop down to the First Division to join Fulham. The 35-year-old midfielder has been given permission to talk to Paul Bracewell about moving to the ambitious west London club after failing to command a regular first-team place at the Stadium of Light this season.

Ball, who was granted a testimonial game against Sampdoria in the summer, will be allowed to discuss personal terms with Fulham before making his decision.

A Sunderland spokesman said: "The club has agreed terms for the transfer of Kevin to Fulham. He's been given permission to speak to Fulham to agree personal terms should he wish to do that."

The move would see the veteran link up once again with one-time team- mates Bracewell, Andy Melville and Lee Clark.