Mills claim is least of Keegan's worries

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The Independent Online

Manchester City is a club in deep denial this morning. Their full-back Danny Mills yesterday issued a withering condemnation of reports that he and the manager, Kevin Keegan, had to be prised apart following a training ground bust-up, hard on the heels of boardroom denials that Keegan's position had been reviewed.

Manchester City is a club in deep denial this morning. Their full-back Danny Mills yesterday issued a withering condemnation of reports that he and the manager, Kevin Keegan, had to be prised apart following a training ground bust-up, hard on the heels of boardroom denials that Keegan's position had been reviewed.

Mills was alleged to have physically attacked Keegan, accusing the City manager of making scapegoats out of his defenders for the club's feeble start to the season.

Mills yesterday issued a statement describing the report as "garbage". He said: "It looks to me like someone, somewhere is looking to stir up trouble for which they themselves can only tell you what their motive is."

Keegan has never been sacked as a manager and as long as he retains the support of the City chairman, John Wardle, he will be difficult to remove, especially if he insists on being paid up the full worth of his contract, which expires in two years' time. Keegan has always insisted that not only would he not attempt to have that contract renewed, he would not seek another management job once it expires in 2006.

Nevertheless, some contact appears to have been made with West Bromwich Albion's manager, Gary Megson, who after a catastrophic fall-out with his chairman may find himself unemployed in the near future.

Even if Manchester City lose at Crystal Palace on Saturday, Wardle is unlikely to move against a man in whom he has invested enormous faith and some £50m. Keegan was at this week's board meeting, which was routine, and gave his opinions on how affairs can be turned around in the wake of Saturday's defeat by Everton, when City appeared devoid of imagination.

Off the pitch, his most pressing decision is not laying out Mills but attempting to persuade his precocious midfielder Joey Barton to sign a new deal. If Barton does not, he can legitimately begin talking to clubs, especially Liverpool and Charlton, in four months' time.

It is likely that City's board will assess Keegan's future over four matches, away at Palace and Southampton and at home to Barnsley, in the Carling Cup, and Arsenal on 25 September. Then the Premiership breaks for internationals, a pause which, as Sir Bobby Robson and others have traditionally discovered, is when managers are most vulnerable.

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