Footbal: Barnes back on big stage: Venables resurrects the international career of Taylor's greatest enigma

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HAVING recalled the hero, Terry Venables yesterday brought back the villain to replace him. Two seasons after he was booed at Wembley, and a year after he was dropped for what appeared to be the final time, John Barnes is back in an England squad and may take the injured Peter Beardsley's role against the United States at Wembley a week today.

Also selected for the first time by Venables are Newcastle's uncapped midfielder, Robert Lee, and Teddy Sheringham, who wins a striker's spot ahead of Andy Cole, Stan Collymore and Chris Sutton.

But the attention, even after 73 caps, will be on Barnes. Venables, like Bobby Robson and Graham Taylor before him, believes he can turn Barnes's undoubted potential into consistent performance. It is a bold but characteristic move - Barnes remains a player of enormous natural talent and, at 30, could give England several years' service.

Venables is aware that some supporters will, to quote one hack at yesterday's briefing, react with 'bloody hell, not Barnes again', but he appealed for those who booed Barnes in the past to go to Wembley with open minds.

'I expect him to be given the same full support as I expect for all the England players. I know he has had problems in the past, but I am not interested in that.'

Venables has never worked with Barnes and admitted that, apart from bumping into him occasionally at airports, he has never spoken to him. The challenge of bringing the best from him is clearly an intriguing one.

'Roy Evans (the Liverpool manager) said he is the best he has been for years in terms of fitness and weight,' Venables said. 'I saw him on the opening day (at Crystal Palace) and he was outstanding. I think he is a player who will fit into what I am trying to do.'

Barnes has been played in a creative midfield role for Liverpool and Venables intends to do the same, so Matthew Le Tissier may again be left on the bench. At least he is in the squad, unlike Cole and company who will have to wait.

'The young players will have their chance,' Venables said. 'They must work hard and put pressure on players in the squad over a consistent period. I want a cap to be special, to be earned and deserved.' At 28, Lee, who has emerged in the past two seasons, has less time and Venables wants to 'see what he can do.'

Sheringham will compete with Les Ferdinand and Ian Wright for the right to be Alan Shearer's partner with the 'Christmas tree' formation temporarily dropped.

The Tottenham striker's recall is unlikely to soften Venables' relationship with the club's chairman. Alan Sugar's latest salvo, which linked Venables with the vilification of Sugar at the High Court last year, was met with implied threats of further legal action.

The Football Association emphasised that the pounds 25,000 win bonus offered to the Americans is intended for the United States Soccer Federation, not its players. It was designed to ensure they brought a strong team.

With a major sponsorship deal in the offing - it appears after five years of rumours that the FA Cup is finally going to be sponsored - the FA should be able to afford it, but neither they, nor Venables, expects to have to pay up.

ENGLAND SQUAD (Friendly v United States, Wembley, 7 September): Seaman (Arsenal), Flowers (Blackburn); R Jones (Liverpool), Adams (Arsenal), Pallister (Manchester Utd), Bould (Arsenal), Le Saux (Blackburn), Pearce (Nottingham Forest), Anderton (Tottenham), Lee (Newcastle), Platt (Sampdoria), Le Tissier (Southampton), Ince (Manchester Utd), Ferdinand (Queen's Park Rangers), Wright (Arsenal), Shearer (Blackburn), Sheringham (Tottenham), Barnes (Liverpool).

Last night's football, page 31