Football: Spurs head to court

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The Independent Online
THE gloves are expected to come off today when Alan Sugar and Terry Venables square up to one another in what promises to be a bruising battle in the High Court.

Ten days ago Venables drew first blood when, at the same venue, he obtained a court injunction, overturning Sugar's decision to sack him from his pounds 250,000-a-year job as chief executive at Tottenham Hotspur.

The Sugar camp has reportedly hit back by obtaining sworn affidavits alleging financial misconduct on the part of Venables, notably with regard to the purchase of Teddy Sheringham, the club's leading goalscorer, from Nottingham Forest last year.

'I have done nothing that causes me to lose any sleep,' Venables countered. 'We are in a strong position and when all this comes out it will be quite evident that there is no truth in the allegations.'

Venables will be supported by Sheringham, captain Neil Ruddock and other colleagues. Arsenal's players have also provided a character reference which will be read out in court.

Venables's hopes of turning the tables on Sugar and buying out his chairman's 47.8 per cent shareholding - at a price which he has asked the court to determine - depend upon his proving, in turn, that Sugar has behaved recklessly in his attempt to have Venables dismissed. If successful, Venables will presumably then need to show that he has the financial wherewithal to go through with such a takeover.

Venables himself is financially stretched, having borrowed pounds 2m at commercial interest rates to help him acquire his 22.1 per cent holding.

He says he has backers and is known to have been in consultation with Robert Earl, the restaurateur of Planet Hollywood fame and a life-long Spurs fan. A spokesman for Earl said yesterday that he was anxious to help Venables 'in any way he could'.

With Sugar insisting that he is 'not a seller', it seems the only way that Venables can gain control of the club is if Sir Donald Nicholls, Vice Chancellor and the Head of the Chancery Division, finds in his favour in court today.

Cardiff City have named Mark Grew as the player who sold FA Cup final tickets to a tout. Initially sacked by the club, Grew was reinstated after Rick Wright, the club's owner, bowed to pressure from the playing staff.

Edwin Stein has signed a three-year contract as manager of Barnet, newly promoted to the Second Division. The South African-born Stein, 37, had been expected to join Barry Fry, his Underhill predecessor, at Southend.