City and Everton tension spills over into directors' lounge
Relations between Manchester City and Everton were poisoned even more yesterday when the Merseyside club's chief executive faxed his opposite number, Garry Cook, suggesting that a long-standing friend of the club had been ejected from Eastlands after City's 2-0 defeat on Wednesday night.
Robert Elstone, whose strongly worded letter, faxed yesterday morning, claimed that the guest of the Everton directors -- believed to be multi-millionaire property magnate George Downing -- found himself involved in a verbal altercation with Cook shortly after Mikel Arteta had scored Everton's 85th-minute second goal and was asked to leave the ground by Cook and a security guard when he entered the directors' lounge. Downing and his wife were then led off the premises, Everton also claim.
City robustly challenge any suggestion that Cook asked anyone to leave and state that the chief executive, responding to behaviour unbefitting of someone in a directors' box, was taking the only reasonable course of action available to him by making a verbal challenge.
They believe they are becoming the victims of shots from those who are embittered by the club's new wealth.
City's senior management are understood to have been the subject of barbed comments in several directors' boxes this season. But Everton, who expected an apology from Cook yesterday morning, are nursing a grievance of their own and there are suggestions that Downing is prepared to take up the issue with Cook's Arab employers if he does not receive an apology from Cook.
Everton's icy relations with City have their roots in the £24m acquisition of Joleon Lescott last August, against the wishes of manager David Moyes -- a controversy which contributed to Everton's lamentable start to the season. Moyes was clearly still unhappy this week, suggesting that Everton had a "collective" spirit which none of City's Arab riches could buy -- an assertion seemingly underlined when Arteta put them 2-0 up. This prompted Everton fans to sing "2-0 and we've spent f*** all" -- a chant which was a source of some amusement among the Everton contingent in the directors' box.
The Everton version of Wednesday's events has it that one of the directors joked that the club had spent considerably more than the fans had suggested to maintain their place in the upper reaches of the Premier League. Elstone believes Downing then chipped in to say something to the effect of "everything's relative -- perhaps we have spent f*** all". At this point, Cook intervened.
Though the two versions of events differ radically -- City insist that Cook was in the toilet when Downing appeared in the directors' lounge and was in friendly conversation with the Everton chairman, Bill Kenwright, before the Merseyside contingent left -- the disagreement compounds the drama of a night on which City manager, Roberto Mancini, was also involved in a touchline tussle with David Moyes, which seemingly happened almost simultaneously to the Cook/Downing disagreement.
Moyes and Mancini were both sent off and the FA is expected to reveal today whether either of them will receive a fine or ban for that incident, sparked by Moyes holding on to a ball which flew into his technical area towards the end of the game. (© Independent News Service)