English League 1

Coventry rent deal talks stall

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Thu, 14 Feb 2013 17:01:00

Gary Naysmith and Ryan Jack will both be added to the squad for Aberdeen's Clydesdale Bank Premier League game against Dundee on Friday night.

Naysmith (hamstring and calf) and Jack (broken foot) are both in contention for the clash at Pittodrie after recovering from their respective injuries.

Boss Craig Brown has no fresh injury worries but will be without the suspended Mark Reynolds.

Dundee manager Barry Smith has two unnamed doubts for the game, while striker Steven Milne is battling to overcome a rib injury.

Dundee are still without long-term injured players Stephen O'Donnell (knee), Mark Kerr (knee), Davide Grassi (knee), Jamie McCluskey (Achilles) and Carl Finnigan (knee).

The 43-year-old had transformed the Sky Blues' season after being installed as Andy Thorn's successor in September, steering them from a potential relegation battle in League One to the fringes of the play-offs.

But the Terriers, who sacked Simon Grayson three weeks ago after going 12 games without a win, were granted permission to approach Robins on Tuesday after Coventry had rejected an initial approach.

Nigel Adkins, sacked by Southampton last month, had been installed as the early favourite to replace Grayson, but Huddersfield maintained Robins had been their first choice and he was unveiled on Thursday as the club's fifth manager in as many years at their Canalside training headquarters.

"It was a considered decision," said Robins, who alluded to the current rent dispute between the club, Arena Coventry Ltd - the owners of the Ricoh Arena - and Coventry City Council.

"I spoke to the owner, I sought assurances and didn't get any assurances from the owner of Coventry," he said.

"I absolutely wish them all the best, they work their socks off and as I've said before that club needs support from Coventry City Council.

"That led to a decision to want to speak with Huddersfield and that's how the decision has been arrived at."

Riether, 29, is currently on loan from German club Cologne but has impressed for Fulham since joining in the summer.

The former Wolfsburg full-back has already featured 29 times for Martin Jol's side, but could still be plying his trade back in Germany next campaign.

"Nothing is decided yet," he told German magazine Kicker. "Fulham can activate a clause, and I also have to agree.

"As things stand now, I will return to Cologne in the summer. But I have to consider and talk to both clubs.

"I wanted to become a starter (at Fulham), and I managed to do that. I am proud I have become a fans' favourite. But of course I can still do better, and that's what I am trying to do."

Riether was also full of praise for his fellow Barclays Premier League players and believes the style of football in England compliments his own abilities more than in his native country.

"The players here all have an amazing individual quality," he said.

"Even smaller clubs take on high-profile players for a lot of money - there are also fewer dives here.

"The football here suits me. Moreover, the club is very friendly and I received a warm welcome."

Riether has made the right-back position his own since moving to Fulham, with the likes of Stephen Kelly moving away from the club due to Jol's preference for the on-loan German.

Despite his current status at Craven Cottage, Riether admits it did take him time to settle and tackle the language barrier.

"It wasn't easy with the language," he said. "At first, I got nothing of what our Scottish assistant coach [Billy McKinlay] said, and the football is different."

The young Scots kick off on March 25 with a home match against Luxembourg and they will also face Holland, Slovakia and Georgia in Group Three, with the group winners and four best-placed runners-up from the 10 qualifying groups progressing to the play-offs.

Scotland were undefeated at home in the 2013 qualifying campaign as they finished second in their group, narrowly missing out on a play-off place for this summer's finals.

Speaking at St Mirren Park, which will again host the home games, Scotland Under-21 coach Stark said: "You know it will be a very difficult task because you need to win five games out of eight, six to be guaranteed and you go into every game knowing that there is no margin for error at all.

"The previous squads have not been too frightened about it, they have not been too far away.

"I would love to think this squad could take that final step and get us to finals but it is going to be really difficult.

"You feel by getting so close with the last squad that, if you kept working with them, you could maybe just find that wee bit extra but then they become too old and you have to start again.

"There is a big element of the new but we have some continuity from the last squad with the likes of Stuart Armstrong, Lewis Toshney, Tony Watt and Kenny McLean, and that is an important aspect.

"I think there is a good nucleus and good strength-in-depth in a squad who are capable of winning games."

Discussions had been ongoing for months between Sisu, the League One club's owners, and Arena Coventry Limited (ACL), who manage the stadium on behalf of joint owners the Alan Edward Higgs Charity and Coventry City Council.

A statutory demand for ?1.1million in unpaid rent stretching back 10 months was issued to the Sky Blues in early December - a figure which now stands at ?1.347m - and ACL chairman Nicholas Carter has warned "now is the time for Sisu to pay up or sell up and get out of Coventry".

ACL claim three club directors have backtracked on a verbal agreement made between the two parties towards the end of January to primarily cut the ?1.28m annual rent to ?400,000, as well as waive more than ?300,000 of the debt amid other details including a revised share of matchday revenue.

Thursday's statement, suggesting City in response proposed alternative terms in a U-turn on that verbal agreement, also alleges an email sent by Coventry chief executive Tim Fisher stated the club had "no option but to build a new venue".

All of this comes on the same day as manager Mark Robins departed the club and agreed to take over at Championship side Huddersfield.

Amid a lengthy official statement, ACL chairman Carter said: "To spend many hours engaging in positive and constructive discussions, leading to a detailed point by point discussion of a proposed Heads of Terms Agreement resulting in verbal agreement and handshakes all round; only to then renege when it came to signing the agreement, is truly reprehensible behaviour.

"There's simply no point in continuing these discussions while the club, under Sisu's ownership, continues to behave in this manner. We will only be prepared to resume these conversations if John Clarke, Tim Fisher and Mark Labovitch sign up to the deal to which they agreed.

"If the club directors can't or won't follow through on the agreement they participated in creating, then we suggest to them that the time has come to consider offering ownership of CCFC to an outside buyer better placed to run the club's financial operations. Make no mistake, now is the time for Sisu to pay up or sell up and get out of Coventry."

Coventry vice-chairman Clarke was unavailable for comment, while there has been no official statement yet made by the club in response to ACL.

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