Coach Gazza misses launch of new career

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The Independent Football

Nothing was ever simple with Paul Gascoigne, so it was no great surprise that his career as a player-coach should have made a false start. The man who in his heyday always seemed to be accompanied by someone known as "Five Bellies" was still laid up in Newcastle with bellyache.

Gascoigne, 37, was struck down by a particularly debilitating bout of food poisoning shortly after signing a two-year contract with Boston United to launch the next chapter in his colourful career, hard on the heels of the publication of his book.

The Pilgrims had to launch their League Two campaign without him as they took on one of the promotion favourites, Oxford United, but they managed to win 1-0. Lee Thompson, a midfielder, scored the goal eight minutes from time.

One of Gascoigne's former clubs, Tottenham Hotspur, lined up a midfielder yesterday, another of the players picked out by Frank Arnesen, their new director of football. Thimothee Atouba, a 22-year-old Cameroon international who was nominated for the African Nations representative team last season, expects to complete the formalities of his transfer from Basle during the next week.

Arnesen said: "Thimothee is a strong, versatile left-footed player. He is able to play left midfield or left full-back. He comes to us from Basle, where he gained experience of playing in the Champions' League against teams such as Manchester United and Liverpool."

Atouba started 10 of the 12 group games in Basle's Champions' League campaign of 2002-03 and scored against Liverpool as his side progressed to the second group stage. Last season he played in the Uefa Cup when Basle were knocked out by Newcastle United.

Manchester City are considering reporting Monaco to Uefa, the European game's governing body, over an alleged illegal approach to Nicolas Anelka.

Didier Deschamps, Monaco's coach, admitted earlier last week that he had spoken to the striker and was interested in bringing the French international back home.

The news has annoyed City, who insist Anelka is not for sale, even though their manager, Kevin Keegan, needs to raise funds to reinforce his squad. Paul Tyrrell, City's communications officer, said: "Clearly there has been an illegal approach if we are to believe what was in the newspaper. We will be looking closely at what Didier Deschamps says in the next few days."

Porto, the European champions, have sacked Luigi Del Neri, the man they appointed to replace Jose Mourinho, apparently because of his repeated absences from the club during the run-up to the new season. No replacement was named.

Del Neri took two days off last week and was not at Friday's training session, alleging that he had missed flight connections while returning to Portugal. Players and officials were reportedly unhappy with his handling of the team.

Rangers and Celtic will be able to join the G14 group of clubs only if they are unanimously welcomed into Europe's élite. The Glasgow clubs wanted to join the group, which includes Real Madrid, Juventus, Manchester United and Milan, in 2002. But they were overlooked in favour of Arsenal, Bayer Leverkusen, Valencia and Lyon.

Now, the G14's general manager, Thomas Kurth, said: "We recognise Celtic and Rangers as among the major European football clubs. Our legal format requires a unanimous vote of member clubs before inviting new teams."

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