Football: Turner resigns from Wolves

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GRAHAM TAYLOR and the man he ditched as England captain, Bryan Robson, emerged as rivals for the job as manager of Wolverhampton Wanderers yesterday following the end of Graham Turner's seven and a half year reign.

Turner and his assistant, Garry Pendrey, offered their resignations in the wake of Wolves' 3-0 defeat at Portsmouth on Tuesday, which came 48 hours after their FA Cup exit at Chelsea. The Molineux board accepted both, entrusting temporary control to the captain, Peter Shirtliff.

Wolves' chief executive, Keith Pearson, said the club hoped to appoint a successor 'sooner rather than later' and claimed that while they had no one particular in mind, the new man would be 'someone with experience'.

That might appear to rule out Robson, who is thought to have boardroom support, while enhancing the prospects of Steve Coppell, Arthur Cox and Taylor. Wolves' owner, Sir Jack Hayward, is an admirer of the former England manager, who still lives in the West Midlands following a successful spell at Aston Villa, though sources close to Molineux consider that the 'Turnip Factor' might make him unacceptable to supporters.

'It's a very sad day - the board feel terrible about it just as Graham Turner does,' Pearson said. 'He made a great contribution to this club, but at the end of the day he realised that he had done as much as he could.'

Wolves, 13th in the First Division but only six points adrift of the play-off places, were Turner's childhood heroes, despite a Merseyside upbringing. He enjoyed success as player-manager of Shrewsbury, taking them up twice on a shoestring budget, but fared less well with Villa, being dismissed after two years.

In October 1986, he replaced Brian Little as Wolves' manager when the former European pioneers were struggling in the lower Fourth. Wolves were promptly knocked out of the FA Cup by Chorley, but Turner's pounds 35,000 signing of Steve Bull, a raw reserve striker with nearby West Bromwich, proved the catalyst for their revival.

'Bully' became a Black Country cult figure as Wolves won successive promotions. In recent seasons, however, the fans' expectations outstripped the team's achievements, and a substantial section of the crowd demanded Turner's sacking.

Sir Jack remained loyal to Turner, arguing that he had served Wolves well during their brushes with bankruptcy and deserved the chance to build a team worthy of the rebuilt Molineux. Since last season, Turner had lavished more than pounds 3.5m on the side, but their patchy performances were not helped by long-term injuries to Bull and Geoff Thomas.

David Sullivan, Birmingham City's owner, insisted yesterday that his manager, Barry Fry, would not be sacked despite admitting that the First Division's bottom club are certain to be relegated to the Second. However, Sullivan indicated that Fry would have no more than a year to revive the Midlands club, who lost 3-0 at home to Leicester City on Tuesday.