Football: Wenger unimpressed by warning from FA

ARSENE WENGER, the Arsenal manager, insists he will retain his right to freedom of speech despite the warning he has received from the Football Association's "sleazebuster" after he called Neil Redfearn, the Charlton midfielder, a cheat.

Wenger's remarks, which came after Patrick Vieira was sent off for an elbowing retaliation that left Redfearn on the floor clutching his face during a Premiership clash 12 days ago, infuriated the Charlton manager, Alan Curbishley, and started a war of words which is still rumbling on.

Graham Bean, the former police officer who recently started work as the FA liaison officer, contacted Wenger on Thursday with a clear indication that such comments run the risk of provoking a disrepute charge. However, Wenger responded: "I don't know how he'll stop me saying what I believe - unless he puts me in jail."

Wenger, after watching a video of the Vieira sending-off incident, was adamant that Redfearn made the Arsenal player's offence look much worse than it was by going down with his hands held to his face, even though any contact was clearly made with his shoulder. Wenger said: "I was asked my opinion about it and I said I believed Redfearn was a cheat on that occasion. If you ask me 50 more times I will say the same. I don't know why I should change it. But I have the greatest respect for Alan Curbishley and Charlton and do not feel I have attacked them."

Curbishley defended Redfearn following Wenger's comments but the Arsenal manager then pointed to statistics showing the Charlton player had committed more fouls than anybody else in the Premiership this season.

Manchester United are running the risk of losing Denis Irwin for nothing because of a delay in contract talks. United's Irish defender is free to leave Old Trafford at the end of the season and has been waiting for contract talks to start for months. Another year at Old Trafford would entitle him to a testimonial. Blackburn Rovers, Leeds and Manchester City could all be interested if he becomes available.

Carl Cort, the Wimbledon striker, has asked referee Graham Poll to rescind the red card he received for fighting in the Dons' third round FA Cup victory over Manchester City. "Anyone who sees the incident will know that there's nothing in it," Cort said.

Paolo Di Canio is expected to make his peace with Sheffield Wednesday and return to Hillsborough at the end of the month, his agent said yesterday. The Italian striker has already served an 11-match ban for pushing over referee Paul Alcock during a game against Arsenal last September. He has also been fined two weeks' wages for not returning to Wednesday after his suspension ended in December.

Ian Stott, the Oldham chairman, wants to become the new chairman of the Football Association. Stott is already a member of the FA's influential management committee and feels he is ideally suited to succeed Keith Wiseman, who was forced out over the "cash-for-votes" scandal.

Ultra-right Atletico Madrid supporters smashed windows and painted slogans on the door of the Spanish Football Federation headquarters in protest at the jailing of Jesus Gil, the club's president. Gil, who is also mayor of Marbella, was sent to jail without bail on Thursday, accused of illegally funnelling town hall funds to Atletico.

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