Evening Mail article on Lee Hughes' new contract

The striker won't sign a new deal until after the EGM and only then if Tony Hale stays in power



LEE Hughes will only stay at The Hawthorns if Tony Hale remains in control of the club. That's the stark message facing Albion as the battle for boardroom supremacy hots up. With the all-important EGM meeting to decide the club's future just two weeks away, Hughes's agents have dropped a bombshell on the rebel board's bid to take power.

And it's all down to Clive Stapleton's 'bad buy' attack on Mario Bortolazzi. Stapleton condemned Hale for bringing the former AC Milan midfielder to the club and branded him a waste of money." The broadside was meant to punish the club's current chief, but it has also incensed Pino Pagliari and Dale Wright the agents who act for the Italian midfielder - but more importantly the men who control ?6million-rated Hughes. They are threatening to take Hughes elsewhere if Hale is de-throned and that will blast a huge hole in Albion's chances of promotion next season. "Calling Mario a waste of money proves these people do not understand football," blasted Pagliari. "As a result any contract agreement we reach for Lee's future at Albion will only hold if Tony remains in charge."

Pagliari's outburst has come at a crucial time in The Hawthorns power struggle and in Hale's attempts to stop Hughes walking out and heading for the Premiership. The striker's agents are due to hammer out a lucrative new deal with Hale over the weekend which will finally end the summer of speculation over his future and keep the sought after striker at The Hawthorns. And it is only Hale's relationship with Hughes which has kept the 23-year-old at The Hawthorns and away from the grasp of clubs like Middlesbrough and Arsenal. But Pagliari and Wright will insist during this weekend's talks Hughes is only tied to Albion as long as Hale remains in the hot-seat. "Of course we will want assurances from Tony if Lee stays at the club Albion will really push for promotion next season," Pagliari explained. "But we are quite confident with Tony as chairman that will happen. "After what has been said, if there was a takeover then the whole situation regarding Lee's future would change."

Stapleton launched his attack on Hale at a recent shareholders meeting at the Moat House in West Bromwich. The former director, who has sided with Paul Thompson and Barry Hurst in a bid to oust Hale and win control of the club, branded Bortolazzi and Fabian De Freitas as bad buys. Thompson weighed in with criticisms of Paul Groves, Paul Crichton and Shaun Murphy who, he argued, had cost Albion ?875,000. But Pagliari sprung to Bortolazzi's defence. "Denis Smith described Mario as a 'model professional' and you can't get higher praise than that. "Denis brought him for his experience and ability and if you look at the statistics, Albion always played better when he was on the pitch. "Mario played at the highest level in Italy. He moved to Albion transfer free and compared to any other 30-plus players of his experience and ability he was very low cost."

 - Taken from the Evening Mail, 25th June 1999

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