Villa scrap McCarthy bid

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The Independent Football

The Aston Villa manager, John Gregory, has confirmed he has abandoned plans to sign Celta Vigo's £10m-rated striker Benni McCarthy - at least for the time being.

The Aston Villa manager, John Gregory, has confirmed he has abandoned plans to sign Celta Vigo's £10m-rated striker Benni McCarthy - at least for the time being.

Gregory has been interested in South African international McCarthy since he scored three times against Villa in an Intertoto Cup tie last month. But the uncertainty over the future of the transfer system in Europe has prompted Gregory to pull back from any possible deal until after Fifa, world football's ruling body, has met the European Commission on September 23.

A group of Aston Villa shareholders are calling for the club chairman Doug Ellis to be voted out at tomorrow's annual general meeting because he has too much power.

The Aston Villa Independent Shareholders' Association believes that Ellis - the club's major share-holder - should not be re-elected and that a new chief executive be appointed instead. Its spokesman Jonathan Collett said: "Given his shareholding and role of chairman, chief executive and director of football, Mr Ellis has too much control, influence and work to do.

"We believe the roles should be split and a dynamic, forward-thinking professional should be appointed as chief executive."

However, Villa's financial director, Mark Ansell, has attacked the AVISA's stance. He said: "This is contradictory to their charter, where they say they want a healthy and constructive dialogue with the club.

"For their first action to be so confrontational is neither healthy nor constructive."

AVISA is also asking shareholders to reject a dividend of 6.6 pence per share after the club made a loss of £4.9m last year. It wants the money to instead be reinvested in areas such as youth and community development.

Trevor Francis, the Birmingham City manager, has been given the full backing of the club's owners after conciliatory talks at St Andrews.

Francis had been on the receiving end of criticism from the club's co-owner David Sullivan, who suggested that the former England striker continually talked the team down and was pessimistic about the club's future.

However, Francis said: "We have cleared the air and we are going on with things in a positive way." Since he took over in May 1996, Francis has twice taken the Blues into the First Division play-offs but on both occasions they failed to reach the final at Wembley.

Birmingham are currently fifth in the table, with just one defeat in their opening four games, and thrashed Southend 5-0 on aggregate to reach the second round of the Worthington Cup.

"Our aim is to back the manager and get us into the Premiership and we have dug deep to give Trevor the tools he needs to do that," Sullivan said.

Notts County have been taken over by the American journalist Albert Scardino and the former West Ham chief executive Peter Storrie. They have bought Derek Pavis's controlling interest in the Second Division club and Storrie will now take over day-to-day running at Meadow Lane. Scardino said: "We have giant ambitions for it and we think we have the resources to match."

Andy Hessenthaler, the Gillingham manager, is to spend £300,000 on the Barnsley striker Bruce Dyer. Gills' officials met Dyer last night after a price had been agreed between the two clubs.

Dyer helped Barnsley's promotion run to the First Division play-off final last season but now the Yorkshire club's manager Dave Bassett has agreed to let him go.