Football: Johnson leaves Kendall in the dark over his Everton future

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THE EVERTON chairman, Peter Johnson, risked turning the club into a laughing stock yesterday by leaving Howard Kendall in the dark about his managerial future.

Johnson was supposed to telephone Kendall or fly in on his private jet to tell him face to face that his third reign was over, but instead, Kendall was left angry and embarrassed to have to field questions about his future at Goodison on his own. Kendall has steadfastly refused to resign, despite widespread reports he is to be fired and yesterday he was defiantly stating that he would be in charge at the start of the season.

Johnson made up his mind to sack Kendall on Friday, a decision backed unanimously by his board. Plans have already been drawn up for a successor, generally believed to be Martin O'Neill.

But to add to the confusion, O'Neill has already gone to France on World Cup duty with the BBC - without telling Leicester City of his future plans. O'Neill may be Everton's first choice, but if he delays as badly as Johnson, Everton will switch to an alternative target later this week.

Kendall's backroom staff at Everton are also facing the sack, but his assistant, Adrian Heath, and coach, Viv Busby, were also in the dark yesterday.

Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal manager, yesterday said he wanted to buy a versatile fullback and also a young striker. He also confirmed he was discussing a new contract which could keep him at Highbury until 2002, but said that if he were to leave before then, he might return to Japan ahead of the 2002 World Cup, which Japan will co-host with South Korea.

Wenger said he is looking for players, but insisted that nobody - particularly Ian Wright - will leave Highbury this summer. "We will try to bring two to three players in. We need a full-back who can play on both sides because we have so many competitions in next season. And maybe a young striker."

Earlier, Ajax confirmed they had turned down a pounds 9m bid for Ronald de Boer from Arsenal, saying: "We will not let Ronald go until 2004, whatever offers we get."

Aston Villa have warned Mark Bosnich, Gary Charles, Mark Draper, Julian Joachim and Riccardo Scimeca that if they do not sign new contracts by 15 July, they wil be put on the transfer list.

Jock Brown, the Celtic general manager, has denied the claims of sacked assistant coach Murdo MacLeod that he interfered with team affairs and delayed bringing Paul Lambert to the club because he did not rate the player.

Brown accused MacLeod of criticising former manager Wim Jansen in his attempts to press his own claims for the job and claimed MacLeod tried to increase the terms of his own contract in October last year, just four months after arriving at Parkhead.