Football: Nationwide League - Wolves halt `suicidal' spending

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JOHN RICHARDS, the managing director of Wolverhampton Wanderers, warned yesterday that the club could not continue operating in its current "suicidal manner".

Richards, a former Wolves and England striker, said that the club was operating on a deficit of pounds 40,000 per week and the multi-millionaire owner and that the chairman, Sir Jack Hayward, had invested pounds 25m in the club over the past five years with very little to show for it.

"We can't carry on trading as we are," Richards said. "It would be foolhardy and suicidal." He revealed that Wolves, who are 11th in the First Division, are heading for a pounds 2m-plus loss this financial year, to add to deficits since 1993 amounting to pounds 24.3m.

Sir Jack has recently sued his son, Jonathan, for alleged financial irregularities while Jonathan was club chairman. Sir Jack demoted him in 1997 and since then has been chairman himself.

Richards added: "We are not prepared to risk the future of this club to appease what I consider to be a few blinkered fans whose only answer is to spend, spend, spend." He hinted that a dozen senior players could be released on free transfers during the summer.

Portsmouth have won a reprieve in their endeavours to stop their bankers calling in the receivers. The Co-operative Bank, which holds the mortgage on Fratton Park, had set Pompey a noon deadline yesterday to pay an outstanding debt of pounds 350,000. However, the First Division club now have until 9am on Monday to pay up.

Successive cup defeats will have done little to temper the ambitions of Sunderland as the First Division leaders travel to Watford today. The Wearsiders' assistant manager, Bobby Saxton, is confidently predicting a positive reaction to the club's recent disappointments.

Sunderland, in rampant form in the League this season, were given some measure of their progress - and probably their prospects next - when they were beaten by Premiership opposition. Last week, Blackburn Rovers shunted them out of the FA Cup and Peter Reid's team were beaten 2-1 in the first leg of the Worthington Cup semi-final at home to Leicester City on Tuesday.

However, Saxton yesterday warned the club's promotion rivals. "Ever since we went top, every other team in the division wants to beat us. It makes every game a big game," he said. "We were disappointed not to win against Blackburn and Leicester - but we won't let those results bother us."

The Vicarage Road manager, Graham Taylor, sees startling similarities between the league leaders and seventh-placed Watford's zenith in the early 1980s. "Sunderland have team spirit, players who deliver the goods and who know what they're about," Taylor said. "In the 80s at Watford we didn't really have any tricks up our sleeves, but it was stopping us which the opposition found so difficult."

There will be some nostalgia but little charity at the Reebok Stadium when Bolton play host to Norwich. The Canaries' manager, Bruce Rioch, returns to the club he guided into the Premiership in 1995 for the first time at their new stadium, which the former Scottish international helped to design.