Football: Lee to take control at City

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The Independent Online
FRANCIS LEE will today formally announce the success of his group's takeover bid at his former club, Manchester City. Lee has persuaded City's principal shareholders, the former chairman, Peter Swales, and the businessman Stephen Boler, who each own almost a third of the stock, to sell to his consortium in a deal worth pounds 10m.

Lee and his consortium are believed to have offered pounds 13 for each of the 750,000 shares, netting in excess of pounds 3m for Swales and Boler if they sell all of their holding. Swales insisted at the launch of Lee's takeover 19 weeks ago that he would only entertain a deal 'in the best interests of Manchester City.'

Lee will be hoping that today's announcement will bring to an end a long period of uncertainty at Maine Road, which has had a detrimental effect on the club's performances. City have won only one of their last 14 Premiership games.

The new board will continue with Brian Horton as the manager, and is prepared to make transfer funds of several million pounds available to him. Horton replaced Peter Reid five games into this season.

Staunch suporters of Swales on the board will be ousted by the new regime and Colin Barlow, a former City player and the spokesman for the Lee consortium, is expected to become chief executive, a post formerly held by Swales.

The Premiership's other protracted takeover struggle, at Everton, looks like being resolved tomorrow. A meeting of the club's directors before the home game with Swindon Town is expected to sanction a bid of pounds 20m from the Tranmere Rovers chairman, Peter Johnson, for a controlling interest.

If Johnson does beat the rival bid from an Everton director, Bill Kenwright, and take control at Goodison, then Mike Walker, the manager appointed last weekend, is likely to be an immediate beneficiary. Johnson is expected to make as much as pounds 10m available for new players.

Andy Linighan, Arsenal's Hartlepool-born centre-half, is the latest target for the Republic of Ireland. Linighan, who has represented England B in a friendly, said: 'If Ireland want me I would have to think about it very carefully. I think there is an Irish great-grandparent in our family tree, and my father is looking at it to see if there is a grandparent as well.'

Barry Fry, the Birmingham City manager, yesterday resolved a dispute with Blues' injured striker, Paul Moulden, during which he threatened to stop the player's wages.

Fry was upset that he had not seen, or been able to contact, Moulden, who has been out of action since late November with an Achilles problem. 'It was just a mix-up,' Fry said. 'Apparently it had previously been agreed that he could continue his rehabilitation work at home in Bolton.'

Moulden said: 'I've been in plaster for the past three weeks, resting up at home.'

Brentford and Mickey Bennett, their former winger who was sacked after a training-ground incident with Joe Allon, have reached an agreement without arbitration. Under the terms of the deal, Bennett leaves as a free agent.

The Newcastle defender, Brian Kilcline, has rejected an pounds 80,000 move to Watford. However, Glenn Roeder, the Watford manager, expects to complete the pounds 60,000 signing of the Sheffield United full-back, David Barnes, today.

Aston Villa are 9-4 second favourites to win the Coca-Cola Cup after yesterday's semi-final draw kept them apart from the bookies' front-runners, Manchester United.

Ron Atkinson, the Villa manager, could face one of his former clubs - United or Sheffield Wednesday - in the final on 27 March, providing his side can overcome either Nottingham Forest or Tranmere over two legs. United can secure a last-four place against Wednesday by winning their replay at Portsmouth.

COCA-COLA CUP Semi-finals: Manchester United or Portsmouth v Sheffield Wednesday; Nottingham Forest or Tranmere Rovers v Aston Villa. (First-leg ties: 13 and 16 February. Second-leg ties: 23 and 27 February).

Gidman's challenge, page 35