Rioch in the family way

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Bolton's joy at yesterday's promotion to the Premiership was overshadowed last night as their manager, Bruce Rioch, appeared to pave the way for his departure.

Rioch seems to be torn between the "family" he has created at Burnden Park - and his real family who still live nearly 200 miles to the south, in Harpenden, near Luton.

Rioch's position has been surrounded by speculation for much of the season with Aston Villa, Arsenal and, recently, Manchester City all being linked with him.

He has consistently refused to comment apart from saying he would decide when this season - and his three-year contract - were finished.

That moment has now come and Rioch said yesterday that he was going to spend a few days with his family while he considered his position. His daughter-in-law is just about to give birth to twins and his son has just been released by Luton.

"I am very happy at Bolton but I am not sure if I want to commit myself to another two or three-year contract. I have been away from my family for three years. I have a mother and father-in law in need of care and attention and I would like to spend some time with the twins. I have a lot of domestic situations which need sorting out."

Rioch's comments appear to rule out a move to Manchester City but Arsenal, whose training ground is just a few miles from Harpenden, must be confident of getting a manager they have trailed since March.

A departure by Rioch would probably be followed by that of Alan Stubbs - possibly to Highbury as well - and Jason McAteer. The loss of any of these would be a heavy blow to Bolton's chances of surviving in the Premiership, the loss of all three would effectively finish them.

Swindon's disastrous 1993/94 season was preceded by the loss of Glenn Hoddle - whose managerial and playing influence had been central to their promotion - and Colin Calderwood. Neither were adequately replaced.

Even if Bolton retain their staff, it will be a struggle. Of seven clubs so far promoted through the play-offs, five have made instant returns and only one has survived - Blackburn, who are something of a special case.