Football: Johnson criticises Kendall signings

THE EVERTON chairman, Peter Johnson, yesterday launched a vigorous attack on the club's former manager, Howard Kendall, as he responded to charges of "gross mis-management" levelled against him at yesterday's annual meeting.

One shareholder claimed that the board had spent pounds 100m in 10 years turning the club "from champs to chumps" and had still not found a goalscorer.

Everton are now managed by Walter Smith, who took charge during the summer, but many of Kendall's buys are still there, with Don Hutchison, John Spencer, Gareth Farrelly, Carl Tiler and Mickael Madar all in the squad.

Last season, Kendall made cut-price signings while the fans bayed for Johnson to give him more funds to stop the slide towards relegation from the Premiership, but Johnson claimed yesterday he did not trust Kendall to spend money wisely.

"It would have been totally wrong of me to release the purse strings last year - and you know that," said Johnson, whose remarks will not have gone down well in the Goodison Park dressing-room.

"Gareth Farrelly was the first signing and that went on right through the season," he said. "There was no problem with the cash side, just the quality of player that came in.

"Howard Kendall did not have his hands tied, just before he left he paid out pounds 1.6m for John Spencer. Doesn't that say it all?

"Did you want Howard to spend all the money on the type of players he brought in last season? I think you would have been appalled."

Johnson rejected claims that Kendall had to sell to buy. "I'm not going to go into the reasons why [Andy] Hinchcliffe and [Gary] Speed left, it would be unfair. It is a personal matter and I don't think it should be put out in front of the world."

The chairman also came in for criticism about living in Jersey. He is limited to 90 days on the mainland and is considered an absentee landlord.

"We need a leader, an organiser, a communicator, a general, a pilot to steer the ship," a shareholders' spokesman, Norman Dainty, said. "The person concerned has to be at the helm here at Goodison every working day. You can't do this. It's a long way to Jersey."

Johnson was not the only chairman under fire yesterday, with Celtic's outgoing chairman, Fergus McCann, and the club's general manager, Jock Brown, also facing a stormy annual meeting. McCann, who is set to leave Parkhead after completing five years in charge, rejected criticism that he is more interested in making money than making Celtic successful.

He said: "People asked me last year why we had a balance sheet and no trophies. Now you've got a balance sheet and trophies."

Brown said that the man who steered the club to the League title, the Dutchman Wim Jansen, had created a "circus of uncertainty" by hinting that he might leave the club. He also criticised the media for putting added pressure on Celtic and accused David Hay, the former manager and scout, and Jansen's assistant, Murdo MacLeod, of contributing to that pressure by speaking to the press about the club.

Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United manager, is refusing to be drawn on speculation linking him with Juventus. A go-between acting on behalf of the Turin club has reportedly approached Ferguson to ask if he would be keen to succeed Marcello Lippi when he retires next summer.

However, Ferguson said: "I don't want to be drawn into things like that. We've got a big game against Barcelona on Wednesday and I don't want to detract from it."

The United chairman, Martin Edwards, said suggestions Ferguson would move to Italy are "a nonsense".

"We know Juventus very well and I know their vice-president, Roberto Bettega, well," he said. "I'm absolutely certain that if there was anything in it I would have heard from Juventus."

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