Delgado's return leaves Southampton stunned

Alistair Grant
Wednesday 19 February 2003 01:00
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The Agustin Delgado saga took a new twist yesterday when he turned up at training just a week after fleeing home insisting he would never play for Southampton again because Gordon Strachan hated him.

The £3.2m Ecuador international angered Saints last year when, after playing only two games all season due to knee and back injuries, he managed to play all three matches for his country in the World Cup.

After playing in only seven games this term, the striker jetted out of England nine days ago and was quoted as saying: "I'm leaving for good – it's obvious the coach hates me and South Americans in general."

So Strachan, Southampton's manager, was left in disbelief when the 28-year-old strolled into the club's Staplewood training base on the outskirts of the New Forest yesterday. "Delgado turned up out of the blue and apologised to me for the trouble he has caused and for disappearing like he did. That is all I know," Strachan said.

Rupert Lowe, the club's chairman, will hold talks this week with Delgado, who is under contract until summer 2005. "It's a private matter between us and Delgado and will be dealt with in private," Lowe said. "We have a lot of things to be positive about at this club so we look at the positive side, not the negative side. Delgado may or may not turn out to be a positive."

Rory Delap looks likely to be out for between four and six weeks after tearing the medial ligaments in his left knee. It is a blow for the defender who had only just recovered from a calf strain. He made his comeback in Southampton's FA Cup victory over Norwich on Saturday but limped off after 28 minutes when he was hurt in a tackle with David Nielsen.

The Saints' physio, Jim Joyce, said: "Rory has a partial tear which won't require surgery but we expect him to be out for a minimum of a month, maybe a bit longer. We will have to see how it goes."

Southampton's FA Cup quarter-final at home to Wolves will be televised live by Sky on Sunday 9 March, with a 4pm kick-off. Arsenal's tie with Chelsea will be shown live by the BBC on Saturday 8 March with a 5.15pm kick-off. The Football Association has yet to confirm the dates for the remaining two quarter-finals, Sheffield United versus Leeds and Watford against Burnley or Fulham.

The Derby County manager, John Gregory, has been charged by the FA with using abusive and/or insulting words to a match official during the Rams' visit to Portsmouth on 8 February when the Rams crashed to a 6-2 defeat.

Gregory argued with the fourth official, Steve Tomlinson, and was sent to the stands during the game. He has 14 days to respond to the charge.

The Rangers defender Arthur Numan has confirmed he is to leave the club in the summer. The Dutch international has been unable to agree a one-year contract extension despite being willing to take a pay cut.

"Everyone knows the financial situation at the club and I was willing to take a pay cut but the gap between what the club offered and what I wanted was too big so I have decided I will leave in the summer," he said. That should open the door for the new signing Jérome Bonnissel to secure a longer deal in the summer but Numan was keen to end his five-year association with the club on a high.

Numan, who is likely to receive offers from Dutch clubs but may retire at the age of 33, said: "There would be no better way of ending my time in Scotland than with a championship medal – and maybe even more."

Meanwhile, the Scotland striker Don Hutchison has claimed he almost moved to Rangers on loan last month. The West Ham striker is on his way back from a serious knee injury but, although the Hammers are struggling, he cannot find his way into the side.

He said of the move: "It didn't happen so now I have to try to concentrate on getting back in the West Ham team. I have made it clear if I don't get back in the team before the summer I will consider my options."

Hutchison made his international comeback in last week's defeat by the Republic of Ireland.

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