Graham has right credentials to rule at the Bridge

The Succession
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The Independent Football

George Graham is the surprise leading candidate to replace Gianluca Vialli as Chelsea manager. The Spurs manager, a former Chelsea player, is much admired by the club's owner, Ken Bates.

George Graham is the surprise leading candidate to replace Gianluca Vialli as Chelsea manager. The Spurs manager, a former Chelsea player, is much admired by the club's owner, Ken Bates.

Graham has much improved Tottenham, who moved into fifth place in the Premiership following Monday night's 1-0 defeat of West Ham United. That success has been achieved with a squad of players of less ability than those at Chelsea and he forged his reputation for drawing the best from players at Arsenal.

Despite Spurs' improvement Graham has never been truly accepted by the supporters at White Hart Lane because of his pragmatic style and connection with their great north London rivals.

Having invested huge sums in the playing side of Chelsea, Bates will be seeking a fast return. But while the chairman's patience may be short, the list of interested parties is sure to be long. Other runners in the race will include the Chelsea players Gianfranco Zola and Dennis Wise should Bates opt to chose from inside the club as he did when Vialli took over from Ruud Gullit. However, both players are still vital to the team and there is certain to be a measure of trepidation in turning again to the playing staff when greater managerial experience is required.

West Ham's Harry Redknapp is another interesting possibility. He has taken the Upton Park club as far as he can on their limited budget. Against Redknapp is his failure to produce a trophy to accompany the exciting flair football his teams produce.

Everton's Walter Smith is admired by Bates, who said he should have been manager of the year last season because of his efforts to restore the Goodison club on a limited budget. Smith's period of enormous success at Rangers would also be attractive. However, Smith is constrained by having two years left on his contract at Goodison and would prove difficult to prise from Merseyside.

Smith's successor at Ibrox, the Dutchman Dick Advocaat, is a strong outsider. He has refused to sign a new contract and has made clear his dissatisfaction about the club's failure to tempt top players to Scotland. A strict disciplinarian, Advocaat would deal with any divisive elements in the Chelsea dressing room.

Celtic's Martin O'Neill would have been a front-runner but for his decision to move north from Leicester City. He has just settled into his new post and is unlikely to leave.

William Hill odds: 2-1 Gianfranco Zola. 7-2 Graham Rix. 9-2 Joe Kinnear. 11-2 Ray Wilkins. 13-2 George Graham. 12-1 Frank Rijkaard. 12-1 Terry Venables. 12-1 Dino Zoff. 16-1 Glenn Hoddle. 20-1 Johan Cruyff. 20-1 Kevin Keegan. 50-1 Ruud Gullit. 50-1 John Gregory.

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