There have been so many withdrawals - Darren Anderton the latest while Paul Ince reported but has not trained because of a knee problem - that the Aston Villa pair are needed to make up the numbers so that a game of sorts can bring a kind of end product to the two-day get-together at Bisham Abbey.
What was going to be a visit to Berlin and a friendly with Germany before it was realised 20 April coincided with the anniversary of Adolf Hitler's birthday will now be a 20- minute each-way game for England among themselves. Whichever side prevails it can be presumed Venables will be claiming a second successive victory for his country.
At first glance, yesterday's session down by the Thames looked like the real thing. Don Howe was barking out the orders at one end while Venables ran through the drills at the other. In one goal, Peter Beardsley and Les Ferdinand were hitting the target at will while Tim Flowers did his best to keep them out.
It was preparatory work, though, for fixtures some way in the distance and if there was a temptation to describe it as meaningless, Venables was having none of it. What is more, he is keen for it to become a habit, information gained on the training ground, he reasons, can be more significant than what is picked up in matches.
'It's been rightly said to me about the goalscoring talent we have on show today (Cole, Sutton, Ferdinand and Le Tissier) but chances are if other people had been available (Shearer, Wright) I would not have been able to see some of them,' Venables said. 'People say what's the point of all this when so many have dropped out but arguably it has become more valuable because I get to see another group of players whose quality is also very high. I have learnt things today and I think it would be beneficial to have this kind of get-together once a month.'
Gary Kelly, the West Ham reserve keeper, has been drafted into the Republic of Ireland squad for tomorrow's game against the Netherlands in Tilburg. Kelly replaces his injured brother, Sheffield United's Alan. Eddie McGoldrick has been released by Arsenal to travel.
Phil Gray, the Sunderland striker, missed Northern Ireland's training session yesterday with a slight ligament injury but is expected to be fit for tomorrow's European Championship Group Six tie against Liechtenstein in Belfast.
John McGinlay, the uncapped Bolton player, will partner Aberdeen's Eoin Jess in Scotland's attack against Austria in Vienna tomorrow.Reuse content