Harding backs bid for Gazza

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The Independent Online

Chelsea's wealthy benefactor, Matthew Harding, has backed Glenn Hoddle's attempt to filch Paul Gascoigne from under the nose of Rangers.

The man who last week bought the freehold of Stamford Bridge for pounds 16.5m, thereby securing its future as a football ground, now has his sights set on success on the playing field.

Chelsea have tabled a pounds 4m bid and are hopeful of tempting the former Spurs player back to London. His Italian club, Lazio, have provisionally accepted a pounds 4.5m bid from Rangers, but the fine print of the respective offers may differ.

"This club is so close to having the chance to lift off like it did 25 years ago and if quality players are available to make things happen I will do as much as I can to help," Harding said. "I believe we are at a watershed where the clubs who are already successful and who reinvest will reap the financial rewards. Those clubs who cannot climb over that hurdle and get in there with them will begin to wither."

Zdenek Zeman, the Lazio coach, said that Gascoigne had "excluded himself" from playing against Sampdoria tomorrow after he failed to turn up for a friendly match on Thursday.

Manchester United's disgraced Eric Cantona, suspended until 1 October, will play another charity match, at Aurillac in central France tomorrow.

Following the departure of Alan Smith from the Crystal Palace managership, Peter Nicholas and Ray Lewington, the youth and reserve team coaches, are to be interviewed today with a view to taking over as joint first- team coaches.

While Paul McGrath was yesterday accepting a new one-year contract with Aston Villa, his fellow Republic of Ireland team-mate, Liam Daish, was rocking the boat over at Birmingham City by rejecting a new deal and asking for a transfer. The Second Division champions themselves have turned down a new pounds 1.5m offer from Sporting Lisbon for their Portuguese winger, Jose Dominguez, whom they signed from Benfica for pounds 150,000 14 months ago.

With all eligible teams in the Premiership's top 10 declining the opportunity to enter the Inter-Toto Cup this year, the Football Association has sounded out non-relegated clubs below them. West Ham have already announced that they will not be entering.