Football: Red faces as Houston walks out

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Arsenal found themselves in the embarrassing position yesterday of seeking a caretaker for the caretaker manager. Having served under two Highbury masters, Stewart Houston decided he would not play second fiddle to a third and tended his resignation to end a nine-year association with the club.

Houston's declaration that he wants to "further my career" suggests he is ready to dispense with the "assistant" label once and for all and step into management in his own right. There is, of course, a vacancy at Queen's Park Rangers and it seems likely his next destination will be Loftus Road rather than Elland Road, where speculation had linked him in a Leeds reunion with George Graham.

His decision leaves Arsenal in the hands of a third manager with the season only four weeks old. Pat Rice now takes over from Houston, who took over from Bruce Rioch five days before the first Premiership fixture, and, with George Armstrong, will be in charge for Monday's visit of Sheffield Wednesday.

Presumably there will be a fourth manager in due course, with Arsene Wenger still intending to leave Japan for north London. Having overlooked the deputy's claims to succeed Graham 15 months ago and opted instead for Rioch, the Arsenal board were not likely to send for Houston when the job next became available. That was the prime reason behind Houston's decision to depart three days after the club had suffered a home defeat by Borussia Monchengladbach in the Uefa Cup.

"I want to further my career and it's clear I am not going to get the chance to do that at Arsenal," he said. A change was required but he refused to be drawn on where that might be. "All I will say is that at this moment in time I am out of work and I need a new challenge."

Houston, 47, was appointed reserve team manager in 1987 and three years later stepped up as first-team coach. With Graham, a fellow Scot he celebrated a title triumph in 1991, victory in the FA Cup and Coca-Cola Cup in 1993 and the European Cup-Winners' Cup 12 months later. After Graham's dismissal in February 1995, he steadied the ship and guided them to another Cup- Winners' Cup final. He had dressing room support for the top job but not from the boardroom.

Rioch is also free to look for new employment after agreeing a pounds 400,000 settlement on a three year contract he had only just signed when Arsenal gave him the sack.

Following the departure of Howard Wilkinson, Leeds have abandoned plans to spend pounds 2.5m on Benfica's Portuguese Under-21 international midfielder, Bruno Caires.

Coventry's manager, Ron Atkinson, yesterday pulled out of a move for the Aston Villa defender, Paul McGrath, when he was quoted a pounds 200,000 fee by Aston Villa's Brian Little.

Hibernian have completed a double signing by recruiting the former England player, Ray Wilkins, and the German Under-21 midfielder, Thorsten Schmugge, from Bochum.

Wilkins, who will mark his 40th birthday by playing against Raith Rovers today, has signed a month's deal with a view to a longer contract. Schmugge has also signed up for a trial. Chris Waddle, the former England winger, has also gone to Scotland, moving to Falkirk on month-to-month deals.

The Professional Footballers' Association yesterday dismissed the Tottenham chairman Alan Sugar's demand for a salary cap on Premiership clubs as unworkable.

Angry Manchester United fans are demanding action from Uefa after claiming they were subjected to violent attacks in their midweek trip to Turin to see United play Juventus in the Champions' League.