Atkinson waits in wings


Dave Bassett was sacked yesterday, and then enhanced his reputation for plain speaking by branding Nottingham Forest "rude and disgusting". The 54year-old departed 22 months after arriving at the City Ground and only eight months after leading the club to the Division One title.

But this season Forest have gone a confidence-sapping 19 games without a win, including a record 17 in the Premiership which has left them bottom of the table and looking odds-on for a swift return to the first division. Last Saturday's dismal home FA Cup defeat by Portsmouth was the final straw.

Ron Atkinson confirmed yesterday that he has been offered the difficult job of trying to keep Forest in the Premiership, although the supporters would prefer to see Stuart Pearce or Nigel Clough replace Bassett.

"Nottingham Forest approached me last night and I agreed that I would consider their offer," Atkinson said from Barbados, where is on holiday until a week on Saturday. "I will let them know my answer within the next week."

It is understood the much-travelled flamboyant figure has been offered the role until the end of the season. In the meantime, Forest's assistant manager Micky Adams will take charge of first-team affairs, starting with Saturday's game against Coventry.

Bassett was left fuming at the manner of his dismissal, which was reported in the papers before he had been informed. "I think it's rude and disgusting to hear that you have been sacked through the columns of a national newspaper," he said.

Arsene Wenger has branded Alex Ferguson's attack on his Arsenal side as "clumsy". Ferguson suggested at the weekend that some of Wenger's men relished turning games into battles.

"It doesn't bother me at all," said Wenger, "it's just, I think, a clumsy statement to make. We don't need to start fights to win matches. I think what he (Ferguson) said was wrong. It's disappointing to hear another manager talk like that. I personally think we have to keep a good image of our game and that starts by respecting every other team. You don't win championships or win cups by just fighting. If you look at the Fair Play table we have got 37 yellow cards and Manchester United have got 38."

The trouble-prone Arsenal midfielder Patrick Vieira has lost his appeal against his sending-off for elbowing in the Premiership match at Charlton and will miss three games. The France international will now miss the Premiership games against Nottingham Forest and Chelsea, plus the FA Cup tie at Wolves.

Liverpool are reported to have stepped up their search for a new goalkeeper by opening talks with the £4 million-rated Jose Francisco Molina of Atletico Madrid. Gerard Houllier is expected to wrap up the signing of the Norwegian teenager Frode Kippe tomorrow. Contract talks between the Aston Villa manager John Gregory and Michael Oakes are deadlocked, with the goalkeeper's future unlikely to be decided until the summer. It appears Gregory is stalling over the wage demands of Oakes, currently in the first-team while Mark Bosnich recovers from a shoulder operation, because he has yet to decide if he wants him as his long-term first-choice.

Alan Shearer will be without his Newcastle strike partner Duncan Ferguson until the end of next month after the Scotsman underwent surgery on his groin in London yesterday.