Football: Hoddle swoops for Peacock: Townsend set to leave Chelsea

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The Independent Online
GLENN HODDLE made his first major signing since taking over as manager of Chelsea last month when he paid Newcastle United pounds 1.25m for the midfielder, Gavin Peacock, yesterday, thereby heightening speculation that Andy Townsend, his captain, would shortly be leaving Stamford Bridge.

Aston Villa, Manchester City and Sheffield Wednesday have recently expressed an interest in the Republic of Ireland player and Villa's Ron Atkinson underlined theirs yesterday, saying: 'The ball is in Chelsea's court. They know of our interest.'

Peacock's arrival makes it easier for Hoddle to release a player who does not appear to figure in his plans. Townsend, 30 tomorrow, declined to comment beyond saying that 'the matter is between myself and Glenn Hoddle'.

It would be surprising if Arsenal, who lost out to Manchester United in the tussle to sign Roy Keane despite offering more than any of their rivals, do not throw their hat into the ring, too, for his international team-mate, even if he did turn them down when signing for Chelsea two years ago.

However, George Graham, Arsenal's manager, denied any interest in the player second-time around and also scoffed at rumours that Paul Merson was being lined up for a transfer to Rangers or Queen's Park Rangers.

Townsend was not the only matter Atkinson will be addressing upon his return from a trip to Japan which was notable for the absence of Paul McGrath, who missed the flight, allegedly after being held up in an M6 traffic jam.

'I am in deep trouble,' said McGrath, who also failed to report for Ireland's World Cup trip to Albania in May. 'I telephoned the club to let them know I would be late and was told to try to catch the next plane. But I am afraid I gave up on the idea and returned home. I realise I am facing a heavy fine but I shall accept it.'

Ossie Ardiles's reported interest in Peacock may have withered when David Howells withdrew his transfer request, a fact trumpeted, somewhat ambiguously, by a press release from Tottenham which announced that Howells has come off the transfer list at White Hart Lane. Ardiles, the Spurs manager, said: 'I am delighted at David's decision and it means that there are no longer any players left who want to leave this club.' However, Andy Gray and Pat Van den Hauwe remain on the list.

Stan Flashman has sold his 67 per cent interest in debt-ridden Barnet to Stephen Glynne, the new chairman, for pounds 1, but remains among the club's main creditors with a claim of more than pounds 500,000. A new backer needs to be found by early next week if the club is to survive.

Marseille's general-secretary, Jean-Pierre Bernes, 'didn't budge one iota', according to his lawyer, Jean-Louis Pelletier, when finally confronted by the players who have accused him of bribery in France's match-rigging scandal. Pelletier said there was no evidence against Bernes and he would press for his client's release from custody.