Backing for Venables

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The Independent Online


An influential voice made itself heard above the whispers surrounding Terry Venables' control of the England team yesterday.

Noel White, the chairman of the Association's international committee, came down firmly in support of Venables' continued tenure as national coach.

"Our first priority has always been to give England the best possible chance of winning next year's Euro '96 Championship finals," he said. "In January 1994 Terry Venables was our choice as the man to lead our effort. He remains that choice today.

"Those who seek to undermine him should be in no doubt of what they are in danger of doing. And that is to undermine the prospects of our national team. The time has surely come for Terry Venables to be allowed to get on with the job he is performing on behalf of us all."

White, a director of Liverpool, was speaking after an unnamed member of the committee was quoted at the weekend saying that the constant speculation surrounding Venables' business affairs was "worrying" the committee.

That suggestion was followed by Venables' revelation that he had asked Scotland Yard to investigate an alleged conspiracy to pervert the course of justice against him. Venables believes the timing of the various allegations - usually around England matches - underlines his belief that there is a "concerted and organised campaign" to discredit him. The latest allegations came in a court case last week.

"Anybody with half a brain knows what is going on," Venables said afterwards. "There is a lot I want to say, but my advice is I am not allowed to at this point. My time will come. I am looking to going into the witness box and speaking under privilege."

Venables' comments were followed by support from the FA, whose director of public affairs, David Davies, said: "In January 1994 Terry was seen as unquestionably the best person to coach England to success next summer. Despite all attempts to undermine him by unproven, sometimes wild, sometimes anonymous allegations, that remains the FA's view."

It is true that despite the court cases and media and internal football investigations, Venables has not been found guilty of anything. However, he is still involved in litigation and the Premier League inquiry has yet to report on the Teddy Sheringham and Paul Gascoigne transfers.

The FA is right, as White said, to want to give England the best possible chance of winning the European Championship. The small chance of that happening would almost certainly evaporate should Venables be forced from office.

However, the FA's first priority should be the promotion of the good name of the game itself. It is to be hoped that aim does not come into conflict with its ambitions for next summer.