Villa fight Beattie transfer charge

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The Independent Football

Aston Villa say they will fight a Premier League charge that they made an illegal approach for the Southampton striker James Beattie during this summer's transfer window.

Aston Villa say they will fight a Premier League charge that they made an illegal approach for the Southampton striker James Beattie during this summer's transfer window.

The Premier League started the disciplinary action against Villa after an official complaint was lodged by Beattie's club, Southampton. This followed comments from the Villa manager, David O'Leary, which could have suggested that Beattie wanted to move to Villa Park after the club's £6m offer had been rejected by Southampton.

A spokesman for the Premier League said: "We received an official complaint from Southampton so we looked into the matter and took the decision to charge Aston Villa with making an alleged illegal approach for James Beattie. An independent commission has been appointed but no date has yet been set for a hearing."

A Villa spokesman said: "We have requested a personal hearing for the manager, at which we will be strenuously denying all allegations brought in the charge."

Villa could, at least theoretically, face anything from a warning to a points deduction if found guilty, although a fine is more likely. That was the punishment handed out to Liverpool in a similar case involving the transfer of Germany international Christian Ziege from Middlesbrough a few seasons ago, although the matter ended up in the civil courts.

The dispute began when Villa pursued Beattie over the summer, with their top bid of £6m for the striker failing. After Southampton had lost 2-0 at Villa Park on the opening day of the season, O'Leary was quoted as saying: "All I can say is that I think there's a player there who definitely wants to join us.

"He has an opportunity to join a few people, but I think he sees the way we play is good for strikers and that he will get a few goals."

The Southampton chairman Rupert Lowe, who was determined to hold onto Beattie, said O'Leary's comments were tantamount to evidence of an illegal approach. Lowe yesterday said: "It is a Premier League matter and it is in their hands now so we will wait to see what they decide. We felt that Aston Villa made an illegal approach for James Beattie while he was still under contract to us and without our permission. The Premier League have set up a commission to look into this so we await their verdict with interest."

Premier League rules state that a club cannot approach a player directly without his club's permission unless he is in the final six months of a contract. Beattie, whose contract does not run out until the summer of 2006, did not fall into that category, but Villa insist that they did not contravene regulations at any time.

Glenn Hoddle remains favourite to become West Bromwich Albion's new manager, but the appointment is no done deal. The club said yesterday that they are still drawing up a short list of names to replace Gary Megson. The club's caretaker-manager Frank Burrows is likely to remain in charge for Saturday's trip to Hoddle's former club Southampton.

An Albion statement read: "The board is in the process of forming a short list of candidates for the vacant job of team manager and this will be finalised shortly. Following interviews with these candidates, an appointment will be made. It is most important that the right individual with the right desire and motivation is appointed to continue the long-term building process at this football club."

Hoddle is believed to be favoured by the Albion chairman Jeremy Peace, who wants to shed the club's dour and stubborn image. Gérard Houllier and Gordon Strachan are also high up the Hawthorns wanted list for the same reason. Former Baggies players Bryan Robson and Sir Bobby Robson have expressed their interest while the ex-Leicester manager Micky Adams is also in the running.

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