Football: Sugar denies exodus: Tottenham make move to hold on to players

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ALAN SUGAR, the chairman of Tottenham Hotspur, yesterday vehemently disputed rumours of a mass exodus from White Hart Lane if Terry Venables departed. Sugar returns to the High Court today to try to oust Venables from his position as chief executive - a move that has brought strong protests from certain players.

'Only eight players are up for contract review, all the rest are under contract to the club,' Sugar said. 'Of the eight, Erik Thorstvedt has signed, Neil Young and David Culverhouse have agreed terms, and Gudni Bergsson made it quite clear weeks ago that he wants to go home to Iceland.

'The rest, Ian Hendon, Kevin Dearden, Scott Houghton and David McDonald, have been made offers which are under negotiation.

'Doug Livermore and Ray Clemence are quite capable of finalising the contracts with these youngsters, who I am sure are anxious to stay and be associated with Spurs.'

Neither Neil Ruddock nor Nick Barmby, who have been linked with other clubs, were up for sale. The board has asked Venables to continue negotiations with the pair.

Sugar dismissed reports that Irving Scholar, the former Spurs chairman, had been asked to return to the board. He said it was 'an absolute joke. Do they think we are raving mad? This is just another rumour engineered to wind the fans up.'

Roy Keane is expected to announce today that he is joining Blackburn Rovers for a British record pounds 5m. The 21-year-old Nottingham Forest midfielder will make his announcement this morning before travelling with the Republic of Ireland to Lithuania for a World Cup qualifier.

Eddie McGoldrick, Keane's international colleague, may also be on the move. The Crystal Palace utility player flew to London from Dublin on Saturday to discuss a possible transfer to Arsenal.