Hammam sells up at Wimbledon


Sam Hammam yesterday handed over the reins of Wimbledon to Norwegian businessman Bjorn Rune Gjelsten. The self-styled Wimbledon governor, who has led the club to their meteoric rise through the English football league, said he could see no option but to sell his remaining 20 per cent of shares to Gjelsten.

Gjelsten will run Wimbledon on behalf of major shareholder Kjell-Inge Rokke, but Hammam has pledged to stay on as a director and to offer advice to his successor. An emotional Hammam said: "In life you always take the wind of change and don't look back. Sometimes you win; sometimes you lose. As long as it is necessary and whatever I am doing, I am always available. This thing doesn't end. When your daughter gets married and leaves it is not the end; it's just a transition, and life goes on.

"It's very likely I'll still be calling the shots and having a lot to say in how things happen, but it's only right that the new owners of the club should have an impact. They are not just anybody; they are two of the most able people in Europe."

Hammam admitted that his partnership with the Norwegian duo had become troubled in recent months. Problems surfaced last year when Rokke sent financial trouble-shooter Svein Bakke to London to examine a shortfall in Wimbledon's accounts.

Don Hutchison has branded Everton's offer of a new contract "a disgrace" and he has rejected it out of hand.

The Scottish international, who has nevertheless been included in Everton's squad for today's trip to West Ham, still has 16 months of his contract left.

But he could now be sold by the club before his value drops dramatically towards the end of his current agreement.

Hutchison told Sky Sports News: "I wanted to stay. I wanted to sign for life. A lot of fans are thinking I'm asking for the earth but that's rubbish. I was just looking for parity with some of the other players. What they offered me was a disgrace.

"They turned around and said I had a week to accept and if I didn't they'd sell me but I have rejected it."

Sky Blues Parade New Boys

Coventry City yesterday paraded new signings Colin Hendry and Ysrael Zuniga and revealed that Magnus Hedman had signed a new four-year deal.

Former Scotland man Hendry has moved to the club for a fee of around £1 million after a miserable 18-month spell at Rangers.

Hendry has played just three games this season after suffering a knee injury in October and has failed to win a place at Ibrox.

Coventry boss Gordon Strachan has been tracking the former Blackburn man for around a year and is delighted to have finally got his man. "This is not a kneejerk reaction to Saturday's defeat by Middlesbrough, it has been on the cards for some time," he said.

He added: "He is a leader in defence and that is what we need. He loves tackling which is good because he will have to do a fair bit of it on our away trips."

Zuniga, a 23-year-old South American golden boot winner, has joined Coventry from Melgar for a fee of around £800,000. Although Strachan admits that he has never seen Zuniga play in the flesh he revealed that the success of his two Moroccan signings this season helped convince him to sign the player.

Kelly: I'll Stay At Leeds For Life

By Ian Parkes, PA Sport

Leeds right-back Gary Kelly yesterday vowed to see out his career at Elland Road after signing a new five-year deal.

Kelly has now joined United's top earners, and is due to gain further reward for his loyalty to Leeds with a testimonial at the end of the 2001-02 season. Chairman Peter Ridsdale is hoping to grant Kelly such an occasion, which he admits have become extremely rare in today's game as players consistently move on as they look to make a fast buck.

But Kelly, who joined Leeds from Home Farm in the early 1990s, is a one-club man having now made 263 league appearances for United following his debut as a 17-year-old.

He could yet challenge the club's all-time appearance record of 629 set by Jack Charlton between 1953 and 1973.

Kelly, ironically, is sidelined for United's trip to Middlesbrough today as he serves a one-match ban, along with midfielders Eirik Bakke and Matthew Jones.

Manager David O'Leary admits he is "down to the bare bones" for the trip to the Riverside as 14-goal leading scorer Michael Bridges will be on the bench, even though he is not fit after a recent lay off with an ankle injury.

"This is why we need a bigger and better squad," said O'Leary. "It might look good for a few months, but when you've injuries and suspensions, this is what happens.

"This is also where squads like that of Manchester United and Liverpool begin to kick in and why it will take us another two years before we can match them."