Lee vows to resist takeover move

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The Independent Online
Francis Lee, the entrenched Manchester City chairman, is bracing himself for another bitter power battle following reports that Maine Road is set to become the scene of a takeover bid.

Lee, under pressure following his failure to find a big-name manager for the ailing First Division club, reacted angrily when told that the Chester chairman, Mark Guterman, is to spearhead a consortium's attempt to take the reins at City.

Guterman, a self-confessed City fanatic, is believed to be putting together a pounds 35m package to win control at Maine Road - just over two years since Lee won a struggle to end Peter Swales' 20-year reign. It is understood that an initial approach has already been made to some major shareholders.

Lee owns 29.9 per cent of the club's shares, with brewing giants Greenalls controlling 17.38 per cent and businessman Stephen Boler 13 per cent. Swales, who died earlier this year still holding a 10 per cent interest, passed those shares on to his widow.

"We've heard all these bid stories before, but we need proper approaches and full proposals in front of us," Lee said last night. "I have had so much aggravation about the whole thing recently that I am more determined than ever to continue."

Lee has repeatedly denied claims that the likes of George Graham and Dave Bassett turned down his managerial overtures because the club's excessive debts limited funds for team rebuilding.

Chris Coleman, the Blackburn defender, underwent an operation yesterday after rupturing an Achilles tendon at Coventry on Saturday and will be out of action until the new year, which means he will miss Wales' World Cup qualifying match against the Netherlands in Cardiff next Saturday.

Wales are already without the suspended Ryan Giggs, although the Sheffield Wednesday midfielder, Mark Pembridge, may have recovered from injury in time for the game.

Paul McGrath, the Aston Villa and Republic of Ireland defender, has offered to pay back the signing-on fee given to him by the club at the start of the season if they let him go. McGrath, unable to gain a first-team place this season, is annoyed by the size of his transfer fee, which ended the interest of Coventry City a fortnight ago.

"It's been said that the manager doesn't want me to sign for another Premier League club in case I come back to haunt him, but that's just rubbish," McGrath said. "I've shown loyalty to Manchester United and Villa in my career - but that loyalty is not being repaid by Villa. The fee asked when Coventry were interested was nothing short of disgraceful."