Wyness quits on eve of stadium decision

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The Independent Football

Everton have been left to contemplate the atrocious timing of their chief executive's resignation, days before a Government ruling which could jeopardise one of the most significant moments in the club's history: their move from Goodison to a new purpose-built stadium at Kirkby.

Keith Wyness, who had become a highly controversial figure with a section of Everton supporters for his stance on pushing forward the proposed move to Kirkby, has quit as the Government Office for the North West prepares to rule on whether Communities Secretary Hazel Blears should "call in" the plan, in which Everton will invest £78m and Tesco £52m.

Wyness declared last month that a decision to call the plan in, after objections from neighbouring local councils, could kill it off. Though a full public inquiry does not necessarily sound the death knell for the project, a delay would have serious financial implications. A decision is expected within five days.

So immersed had Wyness become in "Destination Kirkby", as the project is known, that much of the day-to-day football administration at Goodison had been handled by Robert Elstone, chief operating officer, and club secretary David Harrison while Wyness, who took over in 2004, immersed himself in the move. Everton will not be rushed into naming a replacement for Wyness and the board are expected to meet in a fortnight to discuss the situation.

Wyness is believed to have the possibility of a similar job with La Liga side Real Mallorca, who are now owned by his friend Paul Davidson. Everton insist that the decision had nothing to do with the ground move, though Wyness's decision to leave has removed an obligation to attend an Extraordinary General Meeting called by shareholders opposed to the Kirkby project, that would certainly have put him in the firing line.

David Moyes, meanwhile, announced from Everton's training base in Chicago that he would be signing a new contract within a couple of weeks. The manager is preparing to table a new bid for Sporting Lisbon midfielder Joao Moutinho.

The player trained away from the rest of the squad yesterday with Sporting maintaining that this was because of a muscular problem. Everton and Moutinho are understood to be in contact pending a renewed £16m offer.