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Coleman, Clark and Melville lost £200,000 in investment

Fulham boss Chris Coleman and three football stars lost around £200,000 in a South Tyneside man’s doomed business venture.

Coleman, 36, and three of his players at the time – Andy Melville, Alan Neilson and Lee Clark – are believed to have lost up to £60,000 each in the scheme.

Newcastle Crown Court heard how they provided the start-up capital for a company called Lamont Oliver Communications Ltd in early 2002.

The Newcastle-based firm was to specialise in trading large numbers of mobile telephones, but the court heard how it failed to get off the ground, and the investors received back just a portion of the money they put in.

Directors Stephen Oliver, 36, of Cleadon Towers, South Shields, and Gary Lamont were prosecuted by the Department of Trade and Industry and yesterday admitted failing to provide information to an office holder concerning the insolvency of the firm.

Lamont, 42, of Belle Vue Crescent, Ashbrooke, Sunderland, is understood to be related to Newcastle United player/coach Clark, 33, through marriage.

It is thought Coleman, former Sunderland player Melville, 37, and ex-Newcastle player Neilson, 34, got involved because of their close relationship with Clark. Prosecutor Andrew Finlay told the court: “The company never in fact began to trade and very shortly after, it was wound up.

“It became apparent to the four people who put money into the company that the company wasn’t trading and they were concerned about what was going to happen to their money.

“In fact, they were so concerned in October 2002, they applied for the company’s provisional liquidation.”

The assets of the firm were frozen and it was revealed the company had just £149,078 in its bank account, which was distributed to creditors.

Investigations revealed three large cheques, for £21,000, £20,000 and £10,000, were paid out of the firm’s account and have never been accounted for.

When Lamont and Oliver were asked to explain, they blamed each other and no proper explanation has ever been offered.

Lamont and Oliver, who are now both on incapacity benefit, were each fined £500 and banned from being a company director for two years.

Judge Tony Lancaster told them: “The sentence does not really reflect your criminality, but both of you are on incapacity benefit now.”

Pearce passes Fulham medical

Ian Pearce has completed his move from West Ham to Fulham after successfully undergoing a medical at Loftus Road.

The defender was part of a player-plus-cash swap deal which involved Andy Melville moving to Upton Park.

Melville made his Hammers debut at Sheffield United last weekend, but Pearce was not in Fulham’s squad for the 3-1 loss to Newcastle on Monday.

Hammers boss Alan Pardew told the club website: “The details can’t be disclosed but it’s a great deal for us.

“For Ian it is a move back to the Premiership. He has helped me a lot and I wish him all the best.

“For us it is a question of using that money wisely to strengthen other parts of our squad.”

Pearce was in his seventh season at West Ham, having moved to Upton Park in 1997 from Blackburn.

Melville: ‘Saha has been brilliant’

Fulham captain Andy Melville has denied that Louis Saha’s desire to leave the club has caused dressing room disenchantment.

The Welsh international scorched reports of any unrest, saying: “All credit to Louis he could have sat in the corner and put a bit of a cob on but has shown what a great professional he is. I don’t know the ins and outs of what’s gone on, but the way he’s reacted has been brilliant.”

Melville set to join West Ham

Fulham and West Ham have agreed a centre back swap that will see club captain Andy Melville move to the Hammers with veteran Ian Pearce heading in the other direction.

Pearce is currently having a medical with Fulham before completing the move and may well be available for Monday’s meeting with Newcastle United. Fulham are also understood have completed a permanent deal for full back Moritz Volz, who has been on loan from Arsenal since the start of the season.

Pearce has amassed plenty of top flight experience – winning the Premier League at Blackburn in 1994-95 – and is believed to have been eager to return to the top flight. Melville has made 181 appearances for Fulham since signing from Sunderland on a free transfer.

Coleman won’t blame Melville

Fulham manager Chris Coleman refused to criticise Melville for not even attempting to challenge Crespo when he headed home the winner.

‘We lacked quality and it was disappointing to concede the goal we did,’ he said.

‘But it was a great cross and a great header from a great player so I’m not going to blame Mel for that.

‘We made a few chances but our general play was poor. We looked like we were panicking at times and kicking it long when we could have shown better composure.

‘But we’re fourth because we’re a good team and deserve to be there.

‘We’re there on merit and it’s nearly halfway through the season so we’re ticking over nicely.’

Sean Davis came off just before half-time with a tight hamstring but Coleman is optimistic he will be fit to face Southampton at Loftus Road on Boxing Day.

The manager said:’I took Sean off because I didn’t want to risk him tearing anything.’