Lineker signs up to support O'Neill

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The Independent Football

Gary Lineker has intervened in the boardroom battle at Leicester City, calling the present wrangling "ridiculous" and urging the club not to do anything that might jeopardise the future of its manager, Martin O'Neill.

Gary Lineker has intervened in the boardroom battle at Leicester City, calling the present wrangling "ridiculous" and urging the club not to do anything that might jeopardise the future of its manager, Martin O'Neill.

Lineker, who made his name as a player at Leicester, is backing the club's chairman, John Elsom, in calling an extraordinary general meeting to solve the dispute. Lineker was one of the seven signatories on the document which will lead to an EGM in early December.

Lineker has become increasingly frustrated at the infighting between the so-called "gang of four" led by the chief executive, Barrie Pierpoint, and the other faction - chiefly Elsom and the chairman of the plc, Sir Rodney Walker, the two main allies of O'Neill.

"The best directors at any football club are the unobtrusive ones," said Lineker. "Everything needs to be done to keep the supporters, the players and the manager of Leicester City Football Club happy.

"Martin O'Neill has done a fantastic job since he arrived at the club nearly four years ago. It is a ridiculous state of affairs at the moment, and the EGM is the only way I can see for the club's difficulties to be resolved."

Elsom and Walker had given the rival faction until noon yesterday to resign. When that deadline passed, as expected, with no word from Pierpoint or his fellow directors Phil Smith, Gilbert Kinch and Roy Parker, Elsom's solicitor handed over the papers requesting the EGM.

O'Neill welcomed the move. He said: "If an EGM is what it's going to take to solve this situation, which has been going on for such a long time, then so be it. I think people are starting to get a bit bored with it all.

"What we now have to try and do is concentrate on the football in the weeks ahead before the EGM is called. Gary Lineker's name should add a bit of weight to things."

Another of Lineker's former clubs, Tottenham, face Sunderland at the Stadium of Light today. The North-east side are unbeaten in eight games, and were lying third in the table before yesterday's matches, but will have not forgotten the Steffen Iversen hat-trick at Roker Park in 1997 which hastened their relegation. Iversen has already scored eight this year, six in the Premiership, but in Kevin Phillips (13 so far this season) Sunderland have the League's most prolific scorer.

In today's Premiership televised game, Watford travel to Coventry following six consecutive defeats and without nine first-team regulars. The defensive trio of Paul Robinson, Mark Williams and Robert Page are all suspended, and the manager Graham Taylor will also be without six others through injury, including the regulars Allan Smart, Tommy Mooney, Nick Wright, Peter Kennedy and Alexandre Bonnot.

The Black Country derby tomorrow could see Michael Oakes make his debut in goal for Wolves at The Hawthorns. He moved to Molineux from West Brom for £400,000 on Friday and will be in the squad.

Oakes, 26 yesterday, deliberated for a week before making his decision to move across the West Midlands. The fee will rise to £500,000 based on the number of appearances he makes for the club, for whom he has signed a contract until 2005.

The Wolves manager, Colin Lee, who had been tracking Oakes for several weeks, said: "Mike Stowell and Michael Oakes will now compete for the No 1 position."

For West Brom, Andy Townsend and Micky Evans are both facing late fitness tests. Townsend has been suffering from a knee injury, while the striker Evans has a thigh strain.

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