Football: Kenwright is backed by Smith

THE EVERTON manager, Walter Smith, has backed Bill Kenwright's bid to buy the struggling club.

The theatre impresario is fronting a consortium to buy out the holder of the major shareholder Peter Johnson. A bid of around pounds 50m is on the table and it is thought Johnson is on the brink of accepting the offer for just under half of his 68 per cent stake.

"It's important that the takeover situation is resolved and I would be pleased to see Bill gain control of the club if he could," said Smith, who yesterday completed the signing of Hearts' Scottish World Cup defender David Weir. "I think it's important for everyone here that this situation is cleared up and all the uncertainty is finished."

Don Hutchison's long wait for international recognition from Scotland is about to end with his first senior call from the manager, Craig Brown. Everton's Hutchison, one of Smith's rare success stories this season, has impressed Brown enough to be pencilled in for duty against Bosnia and the Czech Republic in Euro 2000 qualifiers next month.

Liverpool have contacted the Football Association to ask for the red card Jamie Carragher received at Charlton on Saturday to be reconsidered. Carragher was sent off by the Birmingham referee Mike Reed following a clash with Charlton's Martin Pringle during the Londoners' 1-0 victory at The Valley.

Wimbledon have missed the 14-day appeal deadline to dispute John Hartson's pounds 20,000 fine and three-match suspension for his training-ground attack on his former West Ham team-mate, Eyal Berkovic.

West Ham insisted yesterday that their Chilean defender Javier Margas had not gone Awol. The club's chief executive, Peter Storrie, says they gave their blessing for Margas to return to his native South America for a cartilage operation shortly before Christmas.

The Manchester City manager, Joe Royle, has taken the captaincy from Jamie Pollock in the wake of his third sending-off of the season at Bournemouth on Saturday. Pollock, who faces a three-match ban, was also sent off in August and September.

Premiership strugglers Southampton have signed the 22-year-old striker Marian Pahars from the Latvian champions, Skonto Riga, for a reported pounds 800,000 and are now waiting for a work permit.

Mark Viduka finally made his debut for Celtic yesterday - and marked it with a goal. The Australian striker, who controversially returned home before Christmas, immediately after signing for the Scottish champions, was on target as an over-age player for the under-21 team who played Motherwell.

The former Doncaster Rovers owner Ken Richardson has been charged with misconduct by the Football Association following his conviction for conspiracy to commit arson. Richardson was convicted at Sheffield Crown Court last year for his part in the plot to burn down Doncaster's stand. He has parted company with the club since their relegation from the Football League.

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