Football: Leicester head for O'Neill showdown

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The Independent Online
MARTIN O'NEILL may be faced with the prospect of resigning from Leicester City after the club's chairman, John Elsom, refused Leeds United permission to talk to their manager.

O'Neill is in dispute with his club after accusing Elsom and the plc chairman, Sir Rodney Walker, of breaking a gentleman's agreement allowing him to speak to another club if problems at Leicester were not resolved. Elsom denies the claim.

O'Neill broke his silence yesterday by claiming he had an agreement dating from last summer with Elsom and Sir Rodney that he would be allowed to talk to a bigger club. But Elsom said: "Leeds can only speak to Martin if they obtain the permission of the chairman of Leicester City, which is myself. That will not happen.

"Neither do I interpret what was said fleetingly during a one-and-a-half hour meeting as a gentleman's agreement as Martin does. Martin has misinterpreted what was said."

If Leeds' caretaker-manager, David O'Leary, is still in charge next week, he will have to watch his side's Uefa Cup game in Roma from the stands. The Irishman has been given a one-match suspension from the dug- out and dressing room after being dismissed from the bench during the first-round game at Maritimo last month.

George Graham plans to break Tottenham's transfer record by bringing the Blackburn striker, Chris Sutton, to White Hart Lane for pounds 10m. Blackburn have already rejected a bid from Aston Villa, but the signs are that Sutton could be growing restless.

Graham has given his players four weeks to prove they are the men for him. The club's Norwegian striker, Steffen Iversen, was one of the first players to be summoned.

"He told me we each have one month to convince him we have a future here," Iversen said. "He stressed that everyone should have a fair chance but, if we do not convince him, then people will be out."

West Ham's manager, Harry Redknapp, says he does not want to sell Eyal Berkovic despite reports to the contrary. Benfica, whose coach, Graeme Souness, took the Israeli to Southampton two years ago, are said to be lining up a pounds 3m bid. Redknapp says he has not received any offers for the 26-year-old Israeli.

Alex Ferguson said yesterday he will go on a spending spree to buy up young talent from around the world for Manchester United's new feeder club, Royal Antwerp. "We have got a relationship now and we are hoping to get some players in," he said. "We hope we will sign players from other countries and bring them in through Belgium."

The former England left-back Tony Dorigo, 32, has joined Derby on a week's trial. He is currently with the Italian Serie B club Torino.

Fifa, world football's governing body, has decreed that submissions must be made by July 1999 for applications to stage the 2006 World Cup - the original date was next September. England 2006's campaign director Alec McGivan, who is flying to the United States on a fact-finding mission, said: "The tighter timetable is definitely to England's advantage. We're very pleased."

Crystal Palace are hoping to strengthen their Chinese connection by encouraging CCTV (a Chinese television network) to show 20 games live in China this season. Palace are loaning Michele Padovano to the French club, Metz, in an effort to cut their large wage bill. The Italian leaves Selhurst Park after 11 months in England.

Chelsea's French defender, Franck Leboeuf, has been invited to speak at the Oxford Union on 18 October.