Football: Cole and Lee home in on England goal: Venables ponders choice of forwards - Chelsea manager accuses referee over seven bookings - Burkinshaw under pressure

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The Independent Online
TERRY VENABLES has proven already that he is his own man but the suspicion is growing that, as far as Andy Cole is concerned, he is also a man apart.

Venables today announces his fifth squad, for the friendly against Romania at Wembley next Wednesday, and if the Geordie hero continues to be omitted he can forget about selling any more copies of his autobiography on Tyneside - unless it is in lieu of firewood.

Cole has scored 11 goals in as many games this season - seven in eight since being left out of the squad who beat America. He is also demonstrating a greater awareness of his team-mates, providing goals for Robert Lee and Ruel Fox. Even if he does not play against Venables' strongest opponents to date, inclusion in the squad would be richly deserved.

It could be managed only by dropping someone else. With Ian Wright scoring again, the most likely players to make way are Teddy Sheringham - who should be saved by his useful contribution to the win over the United States - and Les Ferdinand. The dropping of the latter could have worrying implications for QPR, whose struggles cannot have helped their centre-forward's chances.

The man sharing top billing in the goal lists with Cole, his team- mate Robert Lee, is certain to be included and ought to make his debut. Lee, outstanding when Venables watched Newcastle's draw with Liverpool nine days ago, is the natural replacement for David Platt, who was injured in Sampdoria's Uefa Cup tie.

The return from injury of Peter Beardsley adds another forward option, as does the continued good form of Matthew Le Tissier, who is yet to start for England.

So far, Venables has been unable to name a squad without including at least one surprise; today's could be Steve McManaman. The Liverpool forward is in outstanding form and is capable of producing the unexpected act that can often make the difference against international defences.

There are far fewer defensive options and Barry Venison's hamstring injury has reduced the number of players comfortable on the ball even further. Venables will be hoping that Paul Ince comes unscathed through Manchester United's match at Hillsborough on Saturday.

The running of a full Premiership programme means the squad will undoubtedly be affected by withdrawals, especially as Newcastle and Blackburn meet at St James' Park on Sunday with up to six squad members involved. It would be ironic if Cole - operating at less than full fitness - should finally be picked and then have to withdraw.

Romania will be playing France in a European Championship qualifying match. How fresh and motivated they will be after that remains to be seen, though for Gheorghe Popescu, Ilie Dumitrescu and Dan Petrescu there will be dressing- room pride at stake.

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