Football: Lennon's Leicester warning

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The Independent Online
AS LEICESTER City received planning permission for a 40,000-seat pounds 25m stadium, one of the club's stalwarts insisted that the club should make sure the team comes first.

"It will mean nothing if we are in the First Division," Neil Lennon said yesterday. "The football side is the important thing." The Northern Ireland international midfielder pointed to the example of his boyhood heroes, Manchester City, who have carried out redevelopment work at Maine Road but are now in the Second Division.

"We have got to be a Premiership outfit before we get the stadium," he added. "There is no point in having a nice big stadium if we are going to be playing in Division One, because then it will be a waste of time."

The Premier League Referees' Officer Philip Don has defended Uriah Rennie after criticism by Chelsea's player-manager, Gianluca Vialli. The Italian said Rennie had been "arrogant" in sending him off against Blackburn on Wednesday. "I have to say I'm disappointed with him because you can make mistakes but it's about the attitude as well," Vialli said. "I thought he was arrogant. He reminded me of my years in Italy when you couldn't communicate with referees."

Don denied that Rennie is arrogant and said: "There's not been any problem with Uriah." He said the new procedure for managers discussing controversial incidents with referees is working well despite the controversy at Stamford Bridge.

There was further controversy in the wake of the game, with Rovers' Chris Sutton taking a swipe at Franck Leboeuf.

"I've played against him a number of times and he always seemed the perfect gentleman, but he was very critical of the English game and kept saying how wonderful the French game was," the Blackburn striker said. "We all know that France won the World Cup. We know Franck Leboeuf won the World Cup. He has a big reputation but he also has a big ego."

Southampton's new pounds 800,000 Latvian striker, Marian Pahars, is unlikely to be available for three weeks because of a work-permit hold-up.

Everton are planning an appeal on the grounds of mistaken identity against Olivier Dacourt's latest booking to save him from a ban that would rule him out of the FA Cup sixth round. The French midfielder was shown the yellow card in the 5-0 defeat of Middlesbrough on Wednesday for a foul on Paul Gascoigne. Everton believe it was Tony Grant who committed the offence, however.

Everton also confirmed the signing of Danish Under-21 midfielder Peter Degn on a pre-contract from Aarhus. Degn, 20, will move at the end of the season.

The Football League Appeals Committee has ruled that Huddersfield must pay Hartlepool pounds 65,000 for midfielder Chris Beech. Hartlepool, who had sought pounds 250,000, will receive a further pounds 15,000 after 20 appearances and pounds 15,000 more after 40.

Notts County have signed the strikers Peter Beadle and Gerry Creaney. Beadle has joined from Port Vale for pounds 250,000, while Creaney cost nothing from St Mirren.

Reading's former Scottish international striker Robert Fleck, 33, has retired. A vertebrae problem requires an operation that could keep the former Rangers and Chelsea forward out for at least a year, and he is therefore quitting.

Motherwell have left Andy Goram out of their side to meet Celtic at Fir Park on Sunday because of recent press attention. The former Scottish international goalkeeper has been the subject of allegations, which he denies, of links with the Ulster Volunteer Force.

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