Arsenal chairman plays down Wenger's 'little flurry'

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The Independent Online

The Arsenal chairman, Peter Hill-Wood, maintains that Arsène Wenger's touchline bust-up with the West Ham manager, Alan Pardew, last weekend was "a very minor incident".

The pair had to be separated following Marlon Harewood's late winner for the home side at Upton Park on Sunday, following celebrations by Pardew, whose Arsenal counterpart Wenger refused to shake his rival's hand at the end of the match and left without speaking to the press.

Pardew has since apologised, with the League Managers' Association set to attempt mediation while the Football Association is reviewing TV footage before deciding whether or not to take action.

Hill-Wood, however, has been quick to play down the whole episode. "I think it is a very minor incident," he said. "It was a brief little piece of passion and I really do not think it is a serious thing at all.

"It was a little flurry and, quite honestly, it is a game played with great passion and people are passionate about it. So I am very relaxed. I have not said anything to Arsène about it and I do not intend to say anything to him about it."

Hill-Wood, who watched the match from his home, reflected: "I think Arsène was pretty upset, but I am sure he will talk next time there is a press conference. I do not think this incident is comparable and, quite frankly, it should be passed over as it really is not serious."

Arsenal play Everton at Goodison Park in the Carling Cup tonight.

The League Managers' Association chief executive, John Barnwell, has described the spat as "unacceptable". But he insisted that the incident was in danger of being blown out of proportion, saying: "It is something that is unacceptable from two decent guys but I do not think it is a major issue, personally.

"Too many people are trying to make a major issue out of it because they are looking for a story. All it does is that it shows you the emotions of the game."

Barnwell feels top managers are in danger of being backed into a no-win situation with some criticised for keeping their feelings in check and others blasted for expressing their views.

Barnwell said: "They are two committed managers and supporters expect and demand commitment and desire from their managers. I do not feel it is a problem at all."

Barnwell has long believed the answer may lie in moving the rival dug-outs further apart on the touchline. "I feel the technical area has always been a problem and the two dug-outs should be moved 20 metres apart," he suggested. "We flagged it up ages ago, but it is really another issue in this instance."

Elsewhere, the Yorkshire businessman Steve Parkin has revealed he was "within days" of clinching a deal to take over at Leeds United. The Leeds-born multi-millionaire, who is the chief executive of the Brighouse-based logistics company Clipper Group, even interviewed the then Crystal Palace manager Iain Dowie to take control of team affairs.

"I put together a consortium and we had a fair amount of wealth within that to do a deal," Parkin said. "We were willing to take it on and be the guarantor for the debt, but we needed to look at the books. They weren't releasing the information to us.

"What they were saying was, 'Show us your funds and we'll show you the books'. But I was saying, 'If you don't show me the books, how do I know how much money I need?' Until you see the books, how do you know?"

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