Football: Leicester fans to show loyalty to O'Neill

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The Independent Online
LEICESTER CITY fans are expected to voice their support for the club's manager, Martin O'Neill, "almost to a man" when Liverpool visit Filbert Street tomorrow.

The supporters club chairman, Cliff Ginetta, believes the fans - sick of the unseemly power struggle at the club - will make their feelings known and get behind O'Neill during the Premiership match.

The Irishman has refused to rule out resigning after becoming increasingly disillusioned by the boardroom battle which is stealing the headlines. The issue came to a head this week when the chief executive, Barrie Pierpoint, whose so-called "Gang of Four" is trying to gain control of the club, issued a statement on the Stock Exchange claiming that the chairman, John Elsom, and head of the plc, Sir Rodney Walker, had resigned when in fact they had not done so.

O'Neill has often been at odds with Pierpoint and directors Roy Parker, Gilbert Kinch and Phil Smith, and it appears unlikely he would stay at Filbert Street if they managed to seize power. In fact, speculation is rife that O'Neill may resign today when he gives a media briefing at the club.

Ginetta is sure the fans will support their manager tomorrow, if he is still there, just as they did 11 months ago when Leeds United were expected to make O'Neill their new manager. Ginetta said: "In the match against Tottenham there were 20,000 who made their feelings felt and I imagine it will be the same story on Saturday. We were vocal then, very vocal, and it will be the same again this weekend when we play Liverpool.

"This business is in every paper at the moment. It's on the news on television and radio, too. But Leicester is a football club and out of all this football has to be the main priority.

"Barrie Pierpoint is not the most popular person with the fans. But this business is not what the manager and his players want to be focusing on - and the fans have a right to be concerned. I expect them to make a lot of noise in support of Martin O'Neill, almost to a man."

Leicester have solved their goalkeeping vacancy by signing Alan Fettis from Blackburn on a month's loan. O'Neill moved swiftly following injuries to both Tim Flowers and Pegguy Arphexad at Crystal Palace in the Worthington Cup in midweek. O'Neill opened talks with his Rovers counterpart, Brian Kidd, yesterday and Fettis is expected at Filbert Street today.

With Flowers and Arphexad doubtful for the match against Liverpool, Fettis could start his career at Filbert Street facing Michael Owen and Robbie Fowler.

Fan pressure has not prompted Juninho's return to Middlesbrough, according to the club's manager, Bryan Robson. The 26-year-old Brazilian midfielder could make his second debut for Boro at Leeds on Sunday if he passes a medical and completes his loan move from Atletico Madrid in time.

Should he impress on his return, Robson could turn the move into a pounds 5m permanent deal at the end of the season.

"We brought Juninho back because it was a good deal for the club," said Robson. "There was no fan pressure, though supporters will welcome him back for his silky skills."

Juninho cost Atletico pounds 12m after Middlesbrough were relegated to the First Division two years ago, but he has not played this season for the club.