Football: Megson is victim of Stoke takeover

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STOKE CITY'S new Icelandic chairman warbled a tongue-in-cheek "Why, why, why, Icelanders?" to the tune of the Potters' theme song "Delilah" when his consortium's takeover of the club was completed yesterday. Gary Megson was asking the same question.

Gunnar Thor Gislason's first day at the helm proved to be Megson's last as manager - despite a run of one defeat in 13 games which swept Stoke into the Second Division promotion race.

Megson, who was only four months into a two-year contract, has been replaced by Gudjon Thordarson, coach to the Iceland side which came within one game of qualifying for a Euro 2000 play-off last month.

Thordarson, 44, becomes Stoke's sixth manager in just two years on a five-year contract. Gislason, describing Megson as "a casualty of events", promised they would strive to lead England's second oldest professional club into the Premiership.

Under the deal signed yesterday, which gives the eight-strong consortium a 66 per cent stake, Stoke's pounds 3.3m debts will be wiped out. An unspecified sum will be available to buy players. One of Thordarson's six sons, Thordur Gudjonsson, has attracted British interest with Genk of Belgium.

Thordarson's last game in charge of a team was a European Championship qualifier against France, when Iceland scared the world champions before losing 3-2 in front of 80,000 in Paris. His next will be Stoke's visit to Wycombe Wanderers a week tonight.

Gislason, now the League's youngest chairman at 33, revealed that it was the new manager who raised the idea of buying Stoke in February after visiting the Britannia Stadium to watch Larus Sigurdsson, who has since left the club.

"Gudjon told us about the excellent stadium, the solid supporter base and the hunger for success," Gislason said. "He then convinced the rest of us to invest."

Thordarsson, a fluent English speaker and strict disciplinarian, guided IA Akranes to five successive championships before taking over the national squad in 1997. They held France in their first match after the World Cup final, and also beat Russia and drew in the Ukraine.

One of the Icelanders' three directors on a reconstituted board - which will also include the unpopular former chairmen Peter Coates and Keith Humphreys - will be the one-time Bayern Munich midfielder, Asgeir Sigurvinsson. He said: "Stoke are too big for the Second Division, a vintage club with loyal fans and Premier League potential."

Megson, who quickly established himself as a favourite with Stoke's long- suffering followers, said much the same when he succeeded Brian Little. No stranger to football's thin ice, he was once signed and sold in the space of three months by Brian Clough without playing for Nottingham Forest and is still embroiled in a contractual dispute with Stockport after his sacking last spring.

Stoke's players, evidently anticipating Megson's fate, made a point of mobbing him after they scored in Sunday's 1-1 draw with Bristol City. Megson said yesterday: "I'll be bitterly disappointed if the club don't pay me what I'd have earned over the two years. No one should come out of this feeling like a victim, but I will unless I'm treated honourably."

Megson's backroom team, the former Port Vale manager, John Rudge, and the ex-Middlesbrough captain, Nigel Pearson, will continue as football executive and coach respectively.