Football: Hammam to plead for right not to sell

Wimbledon 5 Watford 0
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The Independent Online
FOR ONCE the Norwegians took some of the pressure off Graham Taylor, rather than applying the squeeze. Sam Hammam, the self-styled "partner- governor" of Wimbledon, appeared in the press room after Saturday's game to talk the hind leg off a whole team of donkeys (no offence to Watford intended) about his disagreement with the club's principal shareholder, Kjell Inge Rokke, unwittingly distracting attention from Egil Olsen's latest tactical and technical triumph over the Watford and former England manager.

Hammam believes there will be no more days like these if he falls in with Rokke's instructions to raise pounds 3m by selling a player or two. Having sold 80 per cent of the club to a Norwegian consortium for pounds 26m two years ago, the "governor" is not in a strong position to argue. But he hopes this week to sweet-talk Rokke into a greater understanding of football's uneconomic economics, while giving short shrift to his emissary Svein Bakke, whom Rokke wants to work for the club as a financial consultant.

"Kjell Inge is a good man, an honourable man and a wise man," Hammam said. "Now it's my duty to make him fall in love with Wimbledon. His hobby is to do deals; I want him to be emotionally involved, not sending me three accountants. We don't need somebody to come in here and teach us how to suck eggs."

Olsen, who has bought eight players since succeeding Joe Kinnear last summer, but also received pounds 5m for Chris Perry and Mark Kennedy, is naturally concerned that the team's recent improvement would be jeopardised by enforced sales. "If we weaken the team, we could slide into a relegation struggle," he said. Saturday's emphatic completion of a double over Taylor's Watford confirmed that they are too good for that, though Olsen was oddly dissatisfied until after half-time. Despite goals by Carl Cort and Robbie Earle, both emanating from Alan Kimble's immaculately delivered crosses, he tore the players off a strip at the interval.

Taylor had tried to combat the aerial threat by using an extra centre- half (Steve Palmer) at left-back, just as he did for England's critical World Cup tie in Oslo six years ago. It did not work then and failed even more resoundingly on Saturday: further goals by John Hartson, Jason Euell and Marcus Gayle left Wimbledon only one short of equalling their record score since leaving the Southern League in 1977.

"We were guilty of poor defending," Taylor admitted. "However much possession you have, you've got to get it right in both boxes and we never did." Michel Ngonge, presented with the best chances, failed to add to his run of three goals in successive games and so another sequence, of 10 matches without a victory, was extended to 11. After losing at home to Wimbledon on the opening day of the season, Watford must have realised there would be no easy pickings this season. "Norwegian Wood" will not have been on the Taylor car stereo on Saturday night.

Goals: Cort (14) 1-0; Earle (31) 2-0; Hartson (60) 3-0, Euell (67) 4- 0, Gayle (77) 5-0.

Wimbledon (4-5-1): Sullivan; Cunningham, Hreidarsson, Thatcher (Roberts, h-t), Kimble (Andresen, 68); Cort (Hughes, 78), Earle, Andersen, Euell, Gayle; Hartson. Substitutes not used: Badir, Davis (gk).

Watford (4-3-3): Chamberlain; Cox, Williams, Page, Palmer; Hyde, Johnson, Robinson; Wooter, Gravelaine, Ngonge. Substitutes not used: Day (gk), Noel-Williams, Gibbs, Smith, Miller.

Referee: A Wiley (Burntwood).

Bookings: Wimbledon: Thatcher, Earle. Watford: Cox, Robinson, Williams.

Man of the match: Cort.

Attendance: 14,021.