Football: European lure for Venables

THE SPECTRE of the Nationwide League may be hanging over Crystal Palace's attempt to secure the services of Terry Venables but, even if the Premiership's bottom club are relegated, they may still be able to dangle the lure of European football.

Crystal Palace have become the first English team to express a desire to compete in the much-maligned Intertoto Cup for three years and Uefa yesterday confirmed that, although non-Premiership clubs would not "normally" be allowed to enter, Palace's case would be given special consideration by the cup's committee. So desperate is Uefa to have English, Italian and Spanish participation in the competition that Palace would almost certainly get the nod.

Venables, who yesterday asked for a week to think over prospective chairman Mark Goldberg's offer of a lucrative five-year contract, could thus spend the weekend of 18/19 July, while most teams are on the beach, overseeing Palace's European debut.

Venables spent two hours with Goldberg yesterday and was offered bonuses and share options. His delay in making a decision may be a ploy to flush out other possibilities, but he may also be wondering how he will settle into Goldberg's preference for him to work under a director of football appointed by Juventus, who will have an advisory role at the club. Where this leaves Steve Coppell, the current manager, is anybody's guess.

So, too, is Palace's Intertoto team. Uefa has stipulated that, while allowing for World Cup commitments, it must be akin to "a normal team".

In 1995, when Wimbledon, Tottenham and Sheffield Wednesday were coerced into competing, they fielded teams largely made up of reserves and borrowed players, and played "home" games at other venues.