Referee under the microscope

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THE FOOTBALL LEAGUE will investigate claims that referee Mark Halsey celebrated with Manchester City fans after their recent play-off victory at Wembley. The Hertfordshire official was allegedly seen drinking with City supporters at the hotel where he was staying, the Wembley Hilton, hours after refereeing their penalty shoot-out win against Gillingham.

City came back from two goals down to take the game into extra time with a dramatic equaliser deep into stoppage time. They went on to win the penalty shoot-out, after the game finished 2-2, and returned to the First Division at the first attempt.

The Gillingham chairman, Paul Scally, was said to be unhappy and has already spoken to the Football League to demand action. A League spokesman, Chris Hull, said they had received a number of enquiries. There was nothing wrong with the referee enjoying a quiet drink in the bar afterwards but the League proposed to investigate the matter further.

Gianluca Vialli, the Chelsea player-manager, has hung up his boots and vowed: "From now on I will only be a coach." The 34-year-old Vialli told an Italian newspaper: "I'm not playing any more. The time has come for me to become a more conventional coach, Italian-style, someone who goes more deeply into things." He added: "Obviously, every time I think about it, my heart twinges."

The Leicester City manager Martin O'Neill has labelled Tottenham's reported pounds 6m enquiry for his striker Emile Heskey as "derisory". The Spurs director of football, David Pleat, confirmed that his club had spoken to Leicester about Heskey's availability, while Liverpool are also said to be interested. But O'Neill insisted no bid had been made for the powerful 21-year-old England prospect.

"I would prefer Emile to stay," O'Neill said, "but if he decides it's time to go then we will look for the best price. He has only a year left on his contract and is therefore in the driving seat."