Gregory denies 'pressure' claim

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Derby County are ready to offer John Gregory a quick return to the Premiership. Gregory resigned on Thursday as the Aston Villa manager after nearly four years in charge, leading to speculation that he would go to Derby, where Billy McEwan is caretaker manager.

The Derby spokesman Jim Fearn said: "We are aware that John Gregory is now out there and we have to be interested in him. He is a high-calibre manager. But at the moment we don't know what his plans are and that is important."

Yesterday, Gregory rang a Midlands radio station to say that the club's assertion that he had not been able to handle the pressure of the job was untrue. "The statement issued by Aston Villa is rubbish," he said. "I have no problem with the pressure. The relationship between myself and the chairman [Doug Ellis] has completely broken down."

The Charlton manager, Alan Curbishley, has played down speculation linking him with the job. "I got involved in a lot of speculation last year, and I said to myself this morning that I wasn't going to get involved in all that again," he said. "I'm just keeping my head down and getting on with things here.

"It"s the same old thing – I should imagine Villa haven't got the slightest idea who their manager's going to be yet.

"I'm sure that the lists the bookies have drawn up look nothing like the one Doug Ellis has got in front of him. I was apparently 16-1 this morning, and if we lose to Walsall on Saturday, I'll be 160-1."