Terry Venables yesterday sprung a surprise on the football world by announcing he will step down as the England coach after this summer's European Championship finals.
Venables' decision to stand aside after his first and last tournament in charge stemmed largely from the failure to resolve his long-standing dispute with the Tottenham Hotspur chairman - and his former employer - Alan Sugar.
Aged 53, Venables faces several court battles which he believes could affect England's chances of qualifying for the 1998 World Cup in France, by creating conflicting demands on his time.
"It's sad that a highly valued and highly regarded and very inventive football coach, who has done well, should feel it necessary to reach the decision he has," said Graham Kelly, the FA chief executive.
In a statement, the FA said that Venables, who was appointed in January 1994 on a two-and-a-half-year contract, first indicated his intentions to step down on the day before last month's draw for the European Championships - the biggest football event in England since the 1966 World Cup finals.
The FA knew when it chose Venables as coach that it was entering a potential minefield of litigation. "The number of issues that have come out over that period of time have been greater than we might have expected," Mr Kelly said. "There is no point being dishonest - Terry Venables has said it."
There have been suggestions that certain members of the FA's International Committee, including the influential Ian Stott, were against Venables' staying. Kelly, however, insisted: "He has received an extremely high degree of support from the top people within the FA. That support has been expressed continually and consistently."
Alan Ball, a World Cup winner with England in 1966 and now the manager of Manchester City, called Venables' decision "a shame for English football", adding: "You need continuity at the top level and to keep chopping and changing does not do anybody any good."
The Newcastle United manager, Kevin Keegan, the 5-4-on favourite to succeed Venables as England coach, was last night obliged to intervene in a touchline confrontation involving his assistant at Newcastle, Terry McDermott, and the Arsenal manager, Bruce Rioch, during Arsenal's 2-0 Coca-Cola Cup quarter-final victory.
Sugar feud, page 22
The succession, page 24
Ken Jones, page 24Reuse content