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Around The Uk

Friday, 15 September, 2000, 11:51 GMT 12:51 UK
Arsenal dread Wenger departure

Peter Hill-Wood (centre) is determined to keep Arsene Wenger
Arsenal chairman Peter Hill-Wood admitted he "dreads the day" the club have to replace manager Arsene Wenger - as he expressed confidence he could be persuaded to sign a new contract.

Wenger has just under two years left on his current deal at Highbury and has steadfastly maintained that he will see it out.

Despite strong rumours that he will then return to Japan to manage the national side, the Arsenal boss revealed last week that preliminary talks had already begun over his future at Highbury.

While Wenger admitted "nothing concrete" had yet been decided, the Arsenal board have evidently been heartened by the fact that he at least seems prepared to entertain the idea of talking about a new deal.

And while negotiations may well stretch out over some time, they are conscious of the importance of keeping the popular Frenchman - especially when they see the unsettled situation at London rivals Chelsea.

Arsene Wenger is in contract talks
Hill-Wood declared: "What has become very clear to me is that Arsene loves Arsenal and hopefully he will stay longer than the term of his contract, which runs out at the end of next season.

"I am pretty confident that he will. And if he signs we know we will have him for the length of that contract.

"He is a man of his word, the sort of man you want at your club for a long time."

The Arsenal chairman added: "As much as he is an outstanding manager, he is an outstanding man. We are very fortunate to have him and I dread the day we have to replace him, I really do.

"We have many nationalities here and, yes, Arsene is multi-lingual. But when they are together as a group, Arsene speaks to them in English.

"It is to stress the point that Arsenal are an English club. And he is not only well versed in football."

Arsenal vice-chairman David Dein has meanwhile effectively underlined his opposition to any new international tournaments being created in the wake of Fifa president Sepp Blatter's backing for an expanded Olympics event.

He did not wish to directly respond to Blatter's controversial statement, in which he espoused the idea of the Olympic football tournament being expanded from being mainly an under-23 event.

However Dein, who campaigned fiercely for Kanu to be allowed to stay at Highbury rather than competing in Sydney with the Nigerian national team as an over-age player, clearly seems to be against such an idea.

He is a man of his word - the sort of man you want at your club for a long time
  Arsenal chairman Peter Hill-Wood
At the launch of the first audit of disabled facilities at grounds by the National Association of Disabled Supporters, Dein saidt: "There is a fundamental problem at the moment between clubs and countries, and the amount of games being played.

"Clubs are paying huge salaries for their players. It is one thing releasing them from time to time for important international games and we all understand that.

"The Premier League actually cancel fixtures for that. But to start introducing more events and tournaments, there are only a certain amount of games that players can play.

"They are finely-tuned athletes and no club wants to lose their players for more than the minimum amount of occasions during the course of the year."

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