SOUTHAMPTON looked to their past to secure their present yesterday when they reappointed the successful little and large double act of yesteryear, Alan Ball and Lawrie McMenemy, to take charge of the struggling Premiership club in succession to Ian Branfoot, who resigned last week.
Ball gives up his post as manager at Exeter - with the club's blessing and a pounds 100,000 compensation demand - to take over as team manager at The Dell on a two and a half year contract; while McMenemy, who recently rejoined the club he managed for 12 years as a non-paid director, gets his wish to be involved again on a full-time basis as general manager.
Ball, the only member of the class of '66 still managing at club level, emerged as the strong favourite once David Webb, the Brentford manager, declared himself a non-runner.
'Lawrie and I have always got on well in the past but we both know we have a tremendous task on our hands,' said Ball, who was pipped to this post two and a half years ago by Branfoot. 'I'm looking forward to the challenge of starting to bring back the good times I enjoyed here as a player.'
It could hardly start more challengingly for him and McMenemy; away tomorrow to the Newcastle team of Kevin Keegan, another of McMenemy's old boys and someone who has found it a lot easier than Ball to negotiate the transition from player to manager.
Since leaving Southampton as a player, Ball, 48, has enjoyed minimal success in management, his promotion just along the south coast with Portsmouth in 1988 being heavily offset by relegation at that club the following season and also at Blackpool and Stoke, where he was hounded out by supporters in a manner not unlike that of the luckless Branfoot.
For both Ball and the former assistant England manager, who is 57, this represents not only a return to the larger stage, but a chance to make good after disappointments for both since leaving The Dell. Southampton's Premiership future may depend upon their ability to turn back the clock.
Colin Harvey has ended a 30-year association with Everton after the first-team coach failed to receive assurances about his future from Mike Walker, the new manager. Jimmy Gabriel has taken over his duties.
The Inland Revenue has announced that one or two clubs could face prosecution over tax irregularities. Mike Eveling, a Revenue spokesman, said: 'It's quite possible that there could be a prosecution or two this year and one of them may be soon. If you investigate one club, the buying and selling leads to another club. It's a tangled web.'
Port Vale are prepared to sell Bernie Slaven, their match winner in this week's FA Cup third-round tie against Southampton while Barry Fry, the Birmingham manager, has made a pounds 100,000 bid for the Barnet central defender, Dave Barnett.
Berti Vogts, the German coach, has criticised the decision to cancel the country's international against England in Hamburg on 20 April because of fears of trouble from neo- Nazis celebrating Adolf Hitler's birthday. 'If you can't guarantee the safety of the German team and their foreign guests then you have no right to get annoyed about Germany's bad image abroad,' Vogts said.
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