Football: Outlook more gloomy for Harford

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The Independent Online
Blackburn Rovers 0 Arsenal 2

Sometimes managers command more attention than they deserve, and given that Ian Wright was the undisputed star at Ewood Park on Saturday, it might seem inappropriate to focus attention elsewhere - but on this occasion it was unavoidable. For one manager the match represented a welcome to the Premiership; from the other, clear signs that he might soon be bidding it adieu.

One wanted to know, of course, what Arsene Wenger made of it all, now that the scholarly, bespectacled Frenchman had taken charge of an Arsenal match in his own right. Instead, however, the immediate consideration was the future of Ray Harford.

Bottom of the table, the only team in the four divisions without a win, Blackburn are next in line for a change at the top, without a doubt. But Harford's eyes are sharp enough to see what may be coming and it would be no surprise were he to take the initiative himself, even within the next few days.

"I've said I do not intend to resign," Harford said on Saturday, "and that is still my position. But when you hear supporters shouting as they were towards the end today, it makes you have another think.

"I am not going to make any decisions overnight but you wonder whether it might be better for everybody, better for the players in the long run. It is not so much me considering my future as considering the situation, looking at what you can do.

"We are bottom of the league, we haven't won a game. That is the situation and whether I act upon it or the directors act upon it, somebody has to."

He could not have been more frank. Moreover, one could sense that he would walk away almost with relief, having seen his family suffer through hostile supporters in the past. He made a joke against himself, speculating that the directors might be meeting to discuss his position even as he spoke, and laughed heartily in a way that suggested he would not have been too distressed had it been true.

Nothing, it seems, will go right for him. Several of his better players are injured while those who are fit lack confidence. And his attempts to sign top-class foreign stars have foundered because his club lacks real kudos.

By contrast, little, it seems, can go wrong for Wenger, taking over a side who "surprised me with their quality, technically" in extending their sequence to four consecutive wins. He was especially warmed by the finishing of Ian Wright, whose two goals bore the mark of a master in his craft.

"When you consider he did not start his career until he was 23, to have scored so many goals must make him world class," Wenger said. "Can you imagine what he might have achieved if he had started with a good club at 16 or 17?"

Goals: Wright (3) 0-1; Wright (51) 0-2.

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Flowers; Kenna, Marker, Berg, Croft; Donis (Ripley, 64), Sherwood, Bohinen, Wilcox (Gudmundsson, 75); Sutton, Beattie. Substitute not used: Given (gk), Flitcroft, Broomes.

Arsenal (5-3-2): Seaman; Dixon, Keown, Adams, Bould, Winterburn; Merson, Vieira, Platt; Wright, Hartson (Parlour, 85). Substitutes not used: Linighan, Morrow, Shaw, Lukic (gk).

Referee: S Dunn (Bristol).

Bookings: Arsenal: Hartson, Keown.

Man of the match: Wright.

Attendance: 24,303.

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