Football: Walker caught in tug-of-war

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The Independent Online
NORWICH CITY will call on the Premier League to bring severe disciplinary measures against Everton if Mike Walker resigns from the East Anglian club and becomes manager at Goodison Park, writes Trevor Haylett.

Robert Chase, the Norwich chairman, wrote yesterday to both the League and the Football Association, putting them on standby to act should Walker, who has been denied permission to talk to Everton, decide he wants to leave and walks out.

Dr David Marsh, the Everton chairman, contacted Chase late on Monday for permission to speak to his manager. That was denied, and Norwich threatened legal action in the High Court if Marsh did not give an undertaking not to approach Walker directly or indirectly. Last night Everton issued a statement saying they would not approach Walker. Speaking after the defeat by Newcastle, Walker himself said: 'Do I anticipate resigning? I wouldn't anticipate anything at all.'

In only 19 months, Walker has already become Norwich's most successful manager ever, taking them to third in the League and into Europe for the first time. He is, however, ambitious and sees the Goodison opening as an opportunity to win things with a big club.

He is disappointed to have been refused permission to talk to the Merseysiders. 'Any manager would like that opportunity and I am no different,' he said. 'That does not mean that I'm going to leave.' Asked where his loyalties lay, Walker refused to comment and added that he had 'no idea' whether he would still be in charge at Carrow Road next week.

The possibilities for the man who succeeds Howard Kendall are appealing. New owners are likely to be in place by the end of the week - the Tranmere chairman, Peter Johnson, remains the favourite after increasing his takeover bid to pounds 17m - and the incoming manager is likely to have around pounds 5m to spend on new players.

Norwich are prepared to improve Walker's contract. He earned almost pounds 200,000 last season with bonuses, and has been told a similar campaign this time could bring him double that amount. Even an average season could realise pounds 250,000.

It is the first time since the Premier League's formation that two members have fought over a manager. Regulations prohibit clubs making an approach, directly or indirectly, while a manager is under contract and Chase believes that, if Walker is enticed away, the new body could set an example for the game to follow.

A token fine, he said, would merely open the door to other clubs pursuing a similar course. Possible stronger measures include the loss of points, or even relegating the guilty club.

'The Premier League can signal the way it wants football to go,' Chase said. 'Fifa (the world governing body) are giving a lead over fair play and that starts at the very top, in the boardroom. Why should someone trying to put pounds 20m into a club be able to barge his way in and disrupt a fellow member, and try and take away a manager who we gave a chance to 18 months ago? The possibilities of stiff punishment might just make Everton think again.'

If Walker does leave, his assistant, John Deehan, would take over in the short term but is understood not to want the post on a permanent basis. That could lead to the former England manager, Bobby Robson, making a return to East Anglia.

Dennis Wise, the Chelsea captain, will escape an FA investigation unless Everton or an accredited FA official make a formal complaint about a challenge which damaged Matt Jackson's eye in a League match at Stamford Bridge on Monday.