Everton deny rift over Smith

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The Independent Football

Walter Smith's position as manager of Everton was looking increasingly precarious last night following the club's exit from the FA Cup in Sunday's comprehensive defeat at Middlesbrough. That followed a poor run of form in the Premiership which has left the Toffees dangerously close to the relegation zone.

Following widespread criticism of Smith's team selections and tactics in recent weeks, there was speculation yesterday that his position would be reviewed later this week by the board of directors, who were said to be divided over the manager's fate.

This was denied by a senior source within the club. "It's rubbish to talk about divisions on the board and there is no board meeting planned," the source said. However he added: "We are deeply concerned by the club's position and we need to get out of it."

His counterpart across the city, Gérard Houllier, returned to Liverpool's training ground yesterday, five months after cardiac surgery. The Frenchman spent 45 minutes with the players on Saturday and yesterday took part in a longer training session, although he will not be travelling to Barcelona this week.

At Leicester, Dave Bassett and his assistant Micky Adams have been reassured by the club that their future is safe. The club denied reports that the management pair are to be sacked as a result of City's disastrous campaign.

Bolton Wanderers, fresh from agreeing to pay weekly wages of £50,000 to Youri Djorkaeff and £35,000 to Fredi Bobic, have put 12 players up for sale. The circular sent out by their manager Sam Allardyce includes the names of Rod Wallace, Gareth Farrelly, Anthony Barness, Bo Hansen and Dean Holdsworth.

Kevin Keegan is turning to Cameroon's goalkeeper Boukar Alioum as an answer to Manchester City's goalkeeping crisis as cover for the injured Nicky Weaver. Alioum, a close friend of the City defender Lucien Mettomo, was one of Cameroon's key players in their progress to winning the African Nations Cup last month. The 30-year-old plays his club football in Turkey for Samsunspor.

West Bromwich Albion expect to turn their long-standing interest in Jason Koumas, the Tranmere midfielder, into a £1.5m move before the transfer deadline a week on Thursday. Birmingham have agreed a one-month extension to Paul Devlin's loan from Sheffield United pending a possible deal.

Bristol City's Kevin Amankwaah faces a lengthy spell out after breaking his neck in a car accident on Sunday morning. The 19-year-old defender was in a car along with his team-mate Aaron Brown, who was released from hospital after treatment for whiplash.

Preston have reported a £600,000 profit in the six months to December 2001. Turnover for the six-month period was up 31 per cent on the same period last year to £4.6m, largely thanks to television revenue.

The Celtic defender Bobo Baldé has lost his appeal against his two-match ban. The Frenchman was handed a one-match suspension and an additional 12 disciplinary points – meaning an extra one-match ban – following an incident involving the Hibernian defender Paul Fenwick.

* Chelsea will play Fulham while Middlesbrough will take on either Arsenal or Newcastle United in the semi-finals of the FA Cup. Fulham won 1-0 at West Bromwich in Sunday's late game, thanks to a goal from Steve Marlet. Fulham are in the last four for the first time since 1975, when they went on to lose 2-0 to West Ham in the final.

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