FOOTBALL: Outlook hairy for accused Hartson

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The Independent Online
THE REPERCUSSIONS following the training field incident between West Ham's John Hartson and Eyal Berkovic intensified yesterday when the Israeli international said his colleague had behaved "in a way I have never seen before on a football pitch".

In a column Berkovic writes for the Ma'ariv newspaper in his home country, the midfielder said he had been kicked by Hartson after falling to the ground following a challenge.

"If my head was a ball it would have been in the top corner of the net," he wrote. "Hartson kicked me in the head and it wasn't a light kick for a warning. It was from the heart. He behaved in a way I have never seen before on a football pitch."

Sources close to West Ham said Berkovic has been unhappy at the club for some time and that his problems with Hartson will only hasten his departure from the club.

Berkovic's newspaper article did nothing to contradict such a view of events. "There must be something wrong with a player who kicks another one in the head and is not upset about it," Berkovic wrote. "Hartson called me later to apologise but I told him it was too late, it had gone too far."

Harry Redknapp, the West Ham manager, had sought to calm matters on Monday when he said: "People keep making stories up but as far as I am concerned [Berkovic] is very happy at the club."

The player himself, however, took a different view in Ma'ariv. "I am very upset with the West Ham board, they tried to cover up what happened," he wrote. "They did that because Hartson enjoys privileges that others don't. A different player would have been sent out of the club."

The comments will cause problems for the Hammers when the Israeli comes back from international duty and Hartson returns from a week in France, where he travelled yesterday for treatment to an injured ankle. The problem was confirmed as being severe enough to rule him out of Wales' two forthcoming Euro 2000 qualifiers.

Sky TV are reported to have pictures of Hartson's challenge on Berkovic but are said to be refusing to screen them. The shots were taken while filming a preview for the game against Southampton, which took place nine days ago. A Sky source said the incident was on tape and added: "This is X-rated stuff. We can't put this out on air."

If and when the pictures are screened, they could heap more embarrassment on Hartson, who yesterday put his own head in the firing line by signing up for hair loss treatment with a London clinic. He will undergo "advanced laser therapy" in an attempt to replenish the thin dusting of hair on his 23-year-old scalp.

"Me and my agent [who is bald himself and ironically called Jonathan Barnett] were sitting there one day and we saw this advert [for the clinic, which is already endorsed by the cricketer Graham Gooch] and we gave them a ring.

"I'm not immediately conscious of going bald but when asked if I would be interested in receiving treatment and promoting the clinic, I thought: `Why not?'" he said. The follicularly challenged forward will receive treatment worth up to pounds 2,000 for up to a year, plus an undisclosed fee.

When asked if he was prepared for the mickey-taking that will inevitably come from his team mates and supporters, Hartson said: "I already get enough stick being Welsh, so I think I can handle it." He added: "I can dish a bit out as well."

On the subject of Berkovic, he said: "It happened in training and I went in for a tackle. It was a bit hard and I caught him but it was an accident.

"I like Eyal, he's a very skilled player. I rang Eyal to apologise. I think it's been blown out of all proportion."

What is it they say about baldness being caused by too much aggression- inducing testosterone and not too little?

Gould's dilemma, page 30