Graham happy to land Helder

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The rumour factory that has been Arsenal Football Club these past few weeks was triggered into another frenzy yesterday with the announcement of a press conference within Arsenal's whispering walls. George Graham's sacking? Graham's resignation?

No, this one centred on their new capture from the Netherlands, Glenn Helder. "That's it," someone said, "Helder, the new Arsenal player-manager."

You don't know who to believe these days. But there, when the curtains parted, was Graham, looking remarkably relaxed and sounding positively upbeat for a manager who on high authority, it is alleged, was supposed to be an ex-manager as of the Monday just gone.

Ineligible for the Cup-Winners' Cup campaign, and with his new team bobbing around in mid-table obscurity, Helder has clearly been bought for a renewed assault on next season's honours. Which only makes more confusing the report relayed to his radio listeners on Saturday by Garth Crooks that Graham was to be sacked or would quit two days later.

"Whoever put that around has no future in life as a clairvoyant," Graham smiled. To the suggestion that he would not be allowed to spend the Arsenal shillings if he was a manager whose time had run out, he offered another smile. "Thank you, thank you."

Meanwhile, Helder, a £2.3m signing from Vitesse Arnhem, carried on beaming for the cameras, delighted to have arrived in English football, having turned down a lucrative contract from one of Italy's top five clubs. Middlesbrough also wanted him.

"It shows his decision was made with his head and not just his pocket," said Rob Jansen, Helder's representative and an official with the Dutch players' union. "Players in Holland want to come to England. They have heard from Bryan Roy at Nottingham Forest how good it is, and of the special atmosphere at all the grounds. Dennis Bergkamp and Wim Jonk at Inter Milan would both like to come to England."

Helder, it is said, confirms to Graham's ideal of the perfect winger. He has pace, ability, works hard up and down the line and can excite spectators. He is also remarkably strong for one so slight. "When the Arsenal doctor saw him for the first time he was astonished and asked if he did any kick- boxing," said Jansen before realising the unfortunate allusion to Eric Cantona.

For Graham-watchers the purchase is another engrossing twist in his remarkable season. Every time the obituary pens are poised, out comes another expensive plum from the transfer market, the Arsenal manager taking his spending to close on £6m in four weeks.

Helder will make his debut at Highbury next week against Nottingham Forest, having given up the chance to play for the Netherlands in Portugal instead. That also sees the start of Tony Adams' three-match suspension, the referee Keith Burge refusing to rescind his decision to send off the Arsenal captain at Sheffield Wednesday on 4 February.

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